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by Carol Chase
Published by Baen Books, 1991
Abebooks.com: assorted editions
Recommended by: Ross Pavlac
This flashed in and out of print real fast, but is well worth finding.
This book is long out of print but readily available used, and while it is not the world's greatest fiction, it is worth the effort of finding. I first bought and read it probably ten years ago, and it has survived several moves and library purges. I found that much of its story and character has stayed with me, which is more than can be said for many books.
On the surface it is a traditional late-medieval fantasy in another world, with merchant guilds and city-states and a growing threat of empire. The story (coming of age, love, war, survival, colonialism, romance, leadership, governance) is straightforward and engaging and stays largely focused. The characters are reasonably complicated and likable, and the political geography is believable. Many of its plot devices have been covered elsewhere, sometimes better, but what makes Hawk's Flight distinctive is its treatment of faith and spiritual warfare and its compelling interaction between the mundane and the spiritual. It is a thoroughly but light-handedly Christian book and its overall flavor is bracing.
Chase portrays a God-like deity interacting in her world in a manner that seems consistent with the way God acts in the real world frustratingly, through people. We have demons and angels, priests and prophecies, dreams and visions. There is a sense of providence throughout. The way this fits with her down-to-earth human characters and their own well-defined cultural and political conflict is a real strength, as is her use of language and created languages to bring her points home and bring new life to well-trodden Christian concepts (the demons, for example, can confer a real power in this world and are termed "ikiji" in one language, which means "second-best".) We also deal with issues of identity family heritage, class, sin, success and failure, reputation, even gender in the context of redemption and even grace. It rings true theologically.
There are, of course, weaknesses in some of her characterizations; I ran across several flat notes and a few places where Chase reveals perhaps more than she should of her underlying project. Overall these did not much distract from the story for me. Its primary disappointment is that, so far as I can tell and I looked carefully Hawk's Flight is the only title by this author that has made it to print. (She is not to be confused with another woman of the same name who writes Anglican-friendly mysteries under a pseudonym.) She has created a world that is worth spending more time in, and while the novel has several rough spots, the author shows sufficient promise that one would have liked to see where she went next.
This is a book that many Christian SF readers will want to add to their libraries. Speaking politically, it is the sort of work that I would hope Christian writers continue to produce: well-crafted, able to attract a variety of audiences, faithful to the larger calling of both story and faith, a book even a secular press is proud to promote. Peter L. Edman (January, 2004)
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