Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written one ~ and only one. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of Daughter of Hauk, an epic Lord of the Rings-style fantasy by KateMarie Collins, which I finished reading Saturday.
Characters: Arwenna Shalian, elf and the daughter of the title, heads a cast that includes humans, orcs, dwarves, fairies, demons and strange nameless creatures like this beauty:
It was tall, at least as tall as a grown man. The legs were more like an animal’s, with hooves and knees that bent the wrong way. The skin was grey, as if death itself had touched it. A massive chest and pair of arms that looked like they could tear a person in two made her eyes go even wider. The face was nothing but a contorted snarl of hatred, with tusklike teeth. Red eyes looked down at her.
KateMarie sketches vivid characters through dialogue and action, though she’s a touch light on personal description. Arwenna, we learn, has gray eyes and ebony hair, but more than this we don’t get.
Barek the half-human, half-orc, is large and powerful but that’s where the description ends.
Despite that, both characters, along with the interestingly named warrior-woman Y’Durkie, the evil Lord Corse, and others get great dialogue and action, which certainly leaves no doubt as to who they are.
Here’s Arwenna, captured by, it turns out, the evil human brother who seems to both hate and desire her from the moment he learned his father had brought her home as an orphaned child:
She looked at him, seeing the hunger, and stepping back until she touched the wall, spat in his face.
“I will never submit to you. I would rather die and answer to Silas before I ever allow you to touch me!”
Roaring in anger, the Paladin strode towards her and grabbed her by the back of her head, forcing her to look at him. “I will break you, in life or in death. And it will be sweet indeed.” He kissed her, giving her an idea of the torment he promised, before throwing her to the ground and leaving her there.
Arwenna is made of stern stuff, however, which is good, considering the travails KateMarie has planned for her.
Plot: Daughter of Hauk pits Arwenna the elf, as a chosen one of the god Hauk against the evil Lord Corse, a chief minion of another god, Silas. Along the way she finds love, death, tragedy, pain, loss, friendship, acceptance, adventure and tremendous personal revelations.
Setting: As far as I could tell, KateMarie never specifically defined the setting beyond being a sort of Middle-Earth-type place. There’s a large town called Tanisal and smaller towns like Almair, along with fields and forests and a journey over water.
The setting, like the character descriptions, seems mostly secondary to the action of the story. But like the goat-legged, tusked monster described earlier, KateMarie does come out with some specific place descriptions, such as this of one of Hauk’s temples:
The temple was a large white structure with more windows than could be counted. Impressive stone arches and steeples stretched up towards the sky as if to touch the very surface of the sun. A wide set of stone stairs beckoned worshippers toward the set of massive hammered copper doors. Two liveried guards stood on each side of the doors and opened them as they approached.
Inside the temple itself, a large copper and brass sunburst dominated the wall on the far side, above the altar. Beautiful stained glass windows lined the sides of the temple proper, depicting Hauk bestowing miracles. Some of them showed other individuals performing works of great magic.
What I thought could’ve been done better: This is a small thing — but throughout the story, KateMarie’s characters don’t do something — they “start” to do it. For instance: Arwenna slowly began to regain consciousness, the recent events flooding into her mind.
Tighter: Arwenna slowly regained consciousness, the recent events flooding into her mind. No need to begin — just do, as Yoda might say.
It’s only two words, but if you don’t need them, they slow things down, especially repeated throughout the novel.
I mentioned the lack of character description earlier. I would’ve liked some description of Arwenna, Barek, Y’Durkie and other characters, besides the reference to Y’Durkies auburne mane and Arwenna’s gray eyes.
For instance, does Arwenna have pointy elf ears? Is she tall, slender and graceful like a Tolkien elf, or smaller, like a Keebler elf? Barek is half orc — but what does an orc look like? It’s not clear. Does he have a dark, scarred visage, his mouth a grim slash under a hawk nose and black inscrutable eyes?
These kinds of details really bring the characters into focus. And KateMarie does such a wonderful job with all other aspects of her characters, I felt they really deserved the same attention to their appearances.
I also felt there were a few clarity issues. For instance, what is the reason for the war? Just bad guys wanting to take over? And what are the stakes? It’s not clear what’s going to happen if Arwenna’s side loses.
Here’s an example of what I thought was a clarity issue. Arwenna’s cousin Lexi is brought down while she rides an eagle:
The scream of an eagle pierced the air. Even the soldiers, barely yards from them, looked up as something fell from the sky. The broken body of her cousin, Lexi, landed close to where Arwenna was concealed. The giant eagle on which she had flown followed, the ground shaking slightly with the impact.
What brought the eagle down? An arrow? A magic spell? It’s not clear exactly what happened.
What I thought was good: First and foremost, it’s an author’s job to create problems for her protagonist. KateMarie does, from the very first sentence, by actually killing Arwenna and sending her to hell, where demons torture her:
Hands grabbed at her ebony hair, jerking her head up and back. The face in front of her made her eyes bulge in terror. Hooked teeth protruded from the mouth like tusks, curving up towards where a nose should be. Her gray eyes met red ones, the hatred clearly visible.
“You think Silas cares for you, a simple woman?” the creature sneered. “He has deserted you, given you over to us. We will crush your will, Cleric, and bring our master forth to rule this world as was meant to be!” A whip was brought down hard against her back. Her knees gave way, the pale flesh rendered open by the sharp rocks she landed on. Her screams of pain were soon drowned out by laughter.
Though I found a few issues with clarity and lack of description, where KateMarie does describe, it’s really good:
The ruins of buildings peeked out from the foliage that had taken over in the last few centuries. Vine-covered walls, crumbled by time and encroaching plant life, jutted out at odd angles. Windows no longer fitted with glass stared back at them as if empty eye sockets. Shadows and wind played havoc with the plants, making it hard to decide if the movement was real or a memory.
Note the vivid verbs, the “peeked” and “jutted” — of course “The ruins of buildings peeked…” is also a personification. Good stuff. Vivid verbs and figures of speech like that are technically good writing…because they make the writing fun to read.
What I liked most — the camaraderie between Arwenna and her friends and the ever-changing emotional landscapes they journey through — jealousy, hatred, love, selflessness, friendship, grumpiness, fear. And whether Arwenna realizes it or not, she’s also on a quest of self-discovery. And just as the story begins with a shattering truth about Arwenna, so it also culminates with a final fantastic revelation.
Overall: In Daughter of Hauk, KateMarie has penned a sprawling, often dark, action-packed fantasy adventure. Her story pushes the bounds of life and death, love and hatred, sacrifice and betrayal. KateMarie never forgets that emotional content is the soul of art — and of a grand tale.
Daughter of Hauk is both.
Good job, KateMarie!
And for a sexy superheroine paranormal sci fi romantic adventure thriller, check out my own novel American Goddesses ~ thanks for visiting Honest Indie!