The White Hawk

Written by David Pilling
Review by Anne Holt

England, 1459. Lancaster and York are at each other’s throats, plunged into civil war. The first of a series, this story of political rivalry, bloody war and family feud follows a fictional Lancastrian family, the Boltons, through the losses and triumphs of struggle and survival; the brutality of the massacre of Blore Heath and the nightmare of Towton.

Richard Bolton’s father is killed by an act of treachery, but he himself cheats death, a consequence which causes him shame throughout the remainder of his life. He is determined to seek vengeance for his father, but while he and his brother are dubbed traitors and must fight as outlaws, the sister, Mary, must fight for her own survival at home. She finds herself under house arrest by the family’s enemies, and faces a humiliating marriage with a man she hates.

This is a convincing and exciting story, with detail of the period adding to the flavour of believability. The battle scenes are convincing, but may not be to everyone’s taste, as some scenes are not for those who prefer the more romantic, and unreal, view of battle.

The cast of well-drawn characters is large, with real people interwoven splendidly with the made-up, but I do wonder whether they were all necessary, especially given that the book itself is less than 300 pages. The many similar names are confusing at times. This cannot be helped when writing about real people and events, but perhaps the author could have used different names for the invented characters?

The typos and errors that should have been picked up in a proofread do detract from the story slightly, a good edit would put these right, though. Maybe a more inspiring cover? But on the whole, a commendable read.