The Wounded Hawk

Written by Sara Douglass
Review by Viviane Crystal

Brother Thomas Neville, a warrior for God, has left the priesthood in order to stop the devils that are threatening to topple England. But he is never sure of who is truly evil. Is there a demon in his wife, the Lady Margaret, or in King Richard II, or in Hal Bolingbroke, the son of the Duke of Lancaster? In Lancaster himself? Or in other notable historical figures? In Douglass’s fantasy novel, characters are driven by angels and demons who frequently shape-shift in order to escape detection and destruction.

“I am a wounded hawk, Arundel, fluttering defenseless about the ground. King Richard will see to it that my wings be permanently crippled,” Bolingbroke confesses to a peer whose loyalty is needed. King Richard possesses a chest that contains information to help complete the mission of purifying and saving England. Indeed, the quest is so precarious that both men sacrifice their wives to the worst possible brutality of the depraved king and Robert de Vere.

Sara Douglass depicts the treachery, intrigue, and brutality of Richard’s court and that of his opponents in France. King Charles of France is weakened by the declaration of his mother, Isabeau de Baviere, about his bastard origin. She in turn uses her daughter, Catherine, to entice Philippe of Spain to seize the French throne. At the same time, Joan of Arc is drawing more and more popular support for her divinely inspired military campaign against England. Revolution within England, as well, threatens to topple the English crown.

Who will become king, and is he angelic or demonic? Douglass’s perspective is drawn partly from history, and substantially from her own imagination. If the reader can keep the multiple characters straight and is accepting of this alternate history, The Wounded Hawk is an intriguing tale.