The Black Hawks (Articles of Faith #1) by David Wragg

BlackI enjoyed The Black Hawks very much.  According to Goodreads this is approx 430 pages and yet those pages were turning so quickly that it couldn’t have taken me more than a couple of days to finish – I was that hooked.  I hesitate however to call this ‘fun’ and I’m not sure I’d call it ‘hilarious’ either and the reason why I’m going to the trouble of pointing that out is that some people shy away from books that are funny (or trying to be), humour being a tricky way to please everyone after all.  This is very entertaining, it pulled me in fairly quickly, it’s quite action packed, particularly the last third, it has some great characters and there is plenty of snarky banter.  It’s also not a shy novel so if you’re a little wary of profanity then keep that in mind – for me, well, I just love all the banter even if it is a little crude here and there so I was happy as a pig who fell into a mud bath and then found a golden truffle.

As the story begins we meet Chel, he’s about to find himself in a spot of bother which by the sounds of it is the usual state of affairs for him.  Chel is sworn under oath in the service of his uncle, which seems to involve, mainly, carrying clothes around – yep, that’s Chel, he’s like the newbie sent out for everyone’s coffee and believe me he doesn’t enjoy his role at all, it’s just not what he imagined!  Then the City is attacked by the fire wielding Norts and Chel attempts to flee before becoming a fireball himself.  This is when he is unwittingly roped into the service of one of the younger princes, Tarfel Merimonsun and their adventure really begins.  Chel’s prior obligations are removed when the Prince makes a bargain with him – Chel will become the Prince’s protector, relinquishing the oath to his uncle and upon delivering the Prince to safety Chel will be released.  Let’s just say that being a knight isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and the chance to go home appeals very much to Chel so the deal is struck.

Unfortunately for Chel it seems that there are other parties interested in the Prince and so it isn’t long before trouble catches up with them.

The Black Hawks are a bunch of mercenaries.  All very different characters indeed, they have an easy camaraderie and I have no doubt that readers will find a favourite amongst this crew.  I can’t deny that when they entered the scene they stole the show a little.  But, I don’t want to be unfair to Chel and Tarfel.  Their story is very easy to get on with.  Chel is no sword master but what he lacks in technique he makes up for in his own moral code and sheer good luck.  Tarfel is completely clueless and a little detached from reality.  Far from being concerned about being abducted he simply expects a ransom demand to be presented and things to follow a natural and well established course, which naturally will involve the exchange of much gold and no harm to his princely self.  He’s actually very endearing in his gullibility.  I have to say the way the relationship between these two develops as the story progresses is one of the winning elements to the book and indeed for that matter their interactions with the mercenaries.  Also, regarding the Hawks, all of them are very distinct and the author makes it so easy to envision them.  I’m not saying they’re all nice!  But they’re just so well drawn and even the more brooding members of the crew will eventually work their magic on you or at least you’ll be relieved when they show up in the middle of a tight spot.

Speaking of magic.  This isn’t really the type of fantasy that includes monsters and magic, at least not thus far, more adventures and escapades.  Lots of skirmishes and running and a good deal of stabbing.  The number of ways that these characters could die just mounts up as the pages turn, wolves, storms, cannibals, other potential abductors trying to steal the already abducted for themselves not to mention members of the cloth throwing their hat into the ring.

The world building was good.  We’re given a little of the history of the ruling monarchy but in bite size pieces usually during conversation between different members of the Hawks and Chel or Tarfel.  This is a world that has seen its share of war and not everyone can be the winner – there are always those left with the bitter taste of defeat and on top of that and the potential for rebellion, there is also a very strong religious presence that has a feel of the Inquisition with men and women of the cloth becoming objects of fear.

In terms of criticisms.  I have very little.  I really enjoyed this from start to finish – the only issue I would mention is that the ending is something of a cliffhanger – which doesn’t frustrate me as much as it does some people I know – that being said, when is No.2 coming out please?

I thoroughly enjoyed this.  It’s highly entertaining, there are some wicked lines and banter that I really wish I’d highlighted to use for this review and basically I can’t wait to read more.  Let me put it like this – if the second instalment was available, right here, right now I would be all over that.  That’s all I’m saying.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

4.5 of 5 stars

 

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