Review – Ghost Hawk

Cover of Ghost Hawk by Susan CooperGhost Hawk, Susan Cooper

It’s a shame that I didn’t enjoy this book more, given how much I adore The Dark is Rising and Seaward. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to venture into spoiler territory to explain why, so here’s the non-spoilerish thoughts: the writing is still good, and I actually found the first section of the book pretty absorbing, despite criticisms I have seen about the portrayal of the Native American culture.

Given that it’s written in the voice of a Native American character, it has a certain authority about that, but apparently it’s not very accurate, taking elements from different tribal cultures and mixing them up. The end result is a pretty generically Native American setting, with the characters behaving and believing in a general Native-American-ish way to the casual reader… but despite all the details and the sense of authority, this doesn’t fit the tribe Little Hawk is supposed to be a part of. It fits with what I sort of expected, but I’d have liked something more accurate — even with fiction, I don’t read just to get a general stereotype reflected back to me.

And now for the spoilery part.

Just under halfway through the book, the point of view character is murdered, and thus we pass from the Native American experience to a Native American hanging around relatively unable to act, like white people become the focus. I’m not a big fan of the narrative trick Cooper pulls to begin with, and it makes it worse that it takes a character who was active, engaging and unique and makes the story all about the experiences of a young white boy, just arrived to colonise North America, while the Native character hangs around being sympathetic and trapped. And dead.

So much no. That set up just… no. And then, surprise! We get some white saviour stuff.

I still enjoyed the general quality of Cooper’s writing, but in terms of plotting, the book was rather slow, and that ‘gotcha’ in the middle just annoyed me. Bah.

Rating: 2/5


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