Tuesday 17 August 2021

The Hawk and the Wolf - Mark Adderley - The Matter of Britain Book One

The Hawk and the Wolf
The Matter of Britain Book One
Westbank Publishing 
ISBN 9780978984076

I became interested in the books by Mark Adderley because the first book in the McCracken Series was listed in a summer reading list for Catholic Fiction. After reading the first two in that series I picked up the first in this series to give a try. The two series could hardly be any different. McCracken is like a Catholic Indiana Jones. And This is the beginning of a version of the Arthurian Legend. When I was in university there were two Arthurian Legend courses offered but neither ever fit my schedule. I did get the reading list for the one and read several of the volumes from personal interest. This one would easily have fit on the reading lists for either courses. It was a very intense read. The description of the series is:

“The Matter of Britain is a series of novels covering the reign of King Arthur. It begins, many years before Arthur’s birth, with the childhood of Merlin Emrys, a young boy gifted with the ability to see the future. All the familiar heroes and heroines are here—Gawain, Arthur’s nephew, Cei, his foster‐brother, Gwenhwyfar, his queen and faithless wife, but also some less familiar characters: Culhwch, enchanted to marry the daughter of the Chief Giant of Annwn, the monk‐like Peredur, a buffoon and a fool, who nevertheless is a one‐man army, and Gereint, whose face no one has seen. Adderley draws upon his wide knowledge of Arthurian literature, particularly that written in Wales, and upon his own experiences in Wales, to craft a compelling tale in which the clash of arms mingles with songs of love, treason, and destiny.”

And the description of this volume is:

“Britain, the Island of the Mighty, stands on the brink of war with the Roman Empire. Excalibur is lost-the sword forged by the gods in the dawn of days, which has been passed down through the generations of High Kings. Can Britain stand without the help of the gods? Young prince Emrys, nick-named Merlin, knows his destiny is to find the lost sword of power, for the gods have given him a special gift to see into the heart of the world. He knows the rebel goddess Morgana will kill him to take Excalibur and be-come Queen of the Island of the Mighty, with a promise of days dark and bloody. In this fast-paced and violent tale, the world seems poised upon the brink of two possibilities: darkness and death . . . or the age of Arthur.”

Compared to Adderley’s other series this one took me by surprise. It truly is written in an epic style. And it took me a while to catch on. This one is the beginning of Merlin’s tale. We encounter both Boudicea and Morgana and the druids. There is intrigue, battle. Life in historical times. And a young man with the sight trying to find his purpose and place in the world, while dreaming of a legendary blade. 

There are parts of the story that some will struggle with. There are a couple of sex scenes and one of them is an affair with a married woman. The talk of human sacrifice, and other things. I think my son would enjoy the story for the most part but would not recommend it until he is older. But even with that warning it is a very well written novel. And should prove to be an interesting trilogy. It is incredibly well researched. And does not gloss over some of the history. But it is not a story for young children, and I would say not even most tweens or early teens.

Adult readers on the other hand are served up a masterfully written interpretation of the beginning of Merlin’s tale. One set in the first Century as Rome is coming back to British shores. And Merlin sees the plague that will bring upon the people, and sees a future hope. 

Very entertaining. Highly addictive. A great read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Mark Adderley
McCracken Adventure Series:
McCracken and the Lost Lady
McCracken and the Lost Cavern
McCracken and the Lost Oasis
McCracken and the Lost Vessel

The Matter of Britain Series:
The Hawk and the Cup
The Hawk and the Huntress

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