Hawk of May

Hawk of May

4.5 6
by Gillian Bradshaw

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On The Path Toward Greatness, Every Hero Makes a Choice

Gillian Bradshaw was born in Falls Church, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for Hawk of May. She is the author of 25 other novels.

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On The Path Toward Greatness, Every Hero Makes a Choice

Gillian Bradshaw was born in Falls Church, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for Hawk of May. She is the author of 25 other novels.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bradshaw's Hopwood-winning series starter returns to shelves 30 years after its original release. Gwalchmai, aka the legendary warrior Gawain, tells the story of how he came to King Arthur's court. In boyhood, he studied sorcery with his mother, Morgawse, nearly falling under the spell of darkness before devoting himself to the light. He believes the powers of good want him to follow Arthur, but his path is blocked first by enemy Saxons and then by the king's own rejection. Bradshaw paints a Roman Arthur, determined to rebuild the fallen empire, against a backdrop of Irish mythology. Gwalchmai is an honest narrator who allows hindsight to creep in only rarely; his voice is simple and earnest. Written when the author was a teen, this engaging and enchanting retelling of the Arthur legend will appeal to adults and younger readers alike. (Sept.)
Night Owl Romance
Fights, battles, loyalties, magic, wonder, family ties and so much more.
Yankee Romance Reviewers
Courage, darkness, magic, cruelty and kindness, justice and liberation... all the things that you have come to relish in the tales of King Arthur and his brave knights.
— Terra
Queen of Happy Endings
A brilliantly told fantasy novel swirling in the mythical land of King Arthur's Britain... A must read for Arthurian legend fans.
— Alaine
From the Publisher
"Fights, battles, loyalties, magic, wonder, family ties and so much more." - Night Owl Romance

"Courage, darkness, magic, cruelty and kindness, justice and liberation... all the things that you have come to relish in the tales of King Arthur and his brave knights." - Yankee Romance Reviewers

"A brilliantly told fantasy novel swirling in the mythical land of King Arthur's Britain... A must read for Arthurian legend fans." - Queen of Happy Endings

"The book is stock full of adventure, magic, and struggles and leaves you feeling like you are one of King Arthur's retinue." - The Book Tree

"Hawk of May makes an excellent start to an unusual Arthurian trilogy. " - BookLoons.com

"compelling and magical. The character of Gwalchmai pops off the pages and shines... Beautifully descriptive, a must read for any Arthurian fan." - Anna's Book Blog

" This fantastical legend is a rich one, and I'm enjoying Gillian Bradshaw's presentation of it." - The Calico Critic

" Gillian's a truly talented writer with an amazing ability to entertain. I can't wait to read the other two books in this trilogy! " - Readaholic

"Bradshaw has done an excellent job of making Irish mythology and the legends of King Arthur come to life. " - Debbie's Book Bag

"What a great writer Gillian Bradshaw is... one of the most vivid books I've read in ages. " - She Read a Book

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From Chapter One

When my father received the news of the Pendragon's death, I was playing boats by the sea.

I was then eleven years old, and as poor a warrior as any boy in my father's realm of the Innsi Erc, the Orcades Islands. Since I also was a very poor hunter, I had little in common with the other boys, the sons of the noble clans of our island, with whom I lived and trained in the Boys' House; and I had still less in common with my elder brother, Agravain, who led the others in making my life difficult, almost as difficult as my father's plans for me did. To escape from the insistent world of warriors and warriors-to-be, I went sometimes to my younger brother, but more often to a secret place I had by the sea.

It is about an hour's ride south of my father's fortress of Dun Fionn. A small stream falls down the cliff that edges our island on the west, carving a gully into the rock. At the bottom, trapped by a ledge of harder stone, the stream forms a deep pool behind a gravelly beach before it escapes into the ocean. Overhanging cliff walls make it invisible from the cliff-top, so no one but myself ever discovered its existence. As it was also very beautiful, this made it mine. I gave the place a name-Llyn Gwalch, "Hawk's Stream" in British-and considered it to be a world apart from and better than the Orcades and Dun Fionn. Sometimes I took my harp there, and sang to the waves that came pounding at the beach, flowing into the pool at high tide and hissing in the gravel at low tide.

Sometimes I would build fortresses of gravel and mud, and plan battles by the stream as though it were a great river, the boundary between mighty kingdoms. I would picture myself as a great warrior, good at every art of war and sung of in every king's hall in the western world, admired by Agravain and my father. But my favorite game was to build boats and to set them sailing out of the dark pool into the wild grey sea that pounded at every shore of the world at once. I sent my boats west: to Erin, from which my father had sailed years before; and beyond Erin, to that strange island or islands which druids and poets say lie west of the sunset, invisible to all but a few mortals, where the Sidhe live in eternal happiness.

I loved my Llyn Gwalch dearly, and jealously guarded it against any intruders from the outside world. I told only my younger brother Medraut of its existence, and then only after swearing him to secrecy. So, when I heard the clatter of a stone from the path above my head, I drew back hurriedly from the curragh I was building and began to clamber up the gully. I had left my pony tethered at the top, and I did not want anyone to come down looking for me.

"Gwalchmai?" The voice from the cliff-top was Agravain's.

"I'm coming!" I called, and scrambled faster.

"You'd better hurry," said Agravain. He sounded angry.

"Father's waiting for us. He sent me to find you."

I reached the top of the cliff, shook my hair out of my eyes, stared at Agravain. "What does he want?" I didn't like the sound of it. My father hated to wait, and he would certainly be angry by the time I got back to Dun Fionn.

"It's no business of yours what he wants." Agravain was, indeed, angry, tired of looking for me, and probably afraid that some of our father's anger would spill over on to him. "By the sun and the wind, can't you hurry?"

"I am hurrying." I was untying my pony as I spoke.

"Don't answer back to me! You're going to be in trouble enough as it is. We're late, and Father won't like you appearing in front of the guest like that. You're a mess."

"Guest?" About to mount, I paused. "Is he a bard or a warrior? Where's he from?"

"Britain. I don't know what kingdom. Father sent me out to look for you as soon as he'd spoken with the man, and it's a good thing Diuran saw you riding south, or I'd still be looking." Agravain kicked his horse and set off across the cliff-top at a gallop. "Come on, you little coward!"

I swung on to my pony and followed him, ignoring the over-familiar insult. I must be a coward, anyway. If I wasn't, I wouldn't ignore the insult. I'd fight with Agravain, even if I did always lose, and we'd be friends afterwards. He was always friendly after a fight.

A guest, from Britain, and an urgent summons. The Briton must have brought some important message. My father had many spies in Britain who reported to him regularly-but they sent their messages by indirect means, never coming to Dun Fionn themselves. A messenger from Britain meant some important event, a major victory over or defeat by the Saxons, the death of some important king, anything which my father could use to further his influence in the south. The Saxons had suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Pendragon's young war-leader only a year before, so it couldn't be that.

Some king dead, then, and my father about to make a bargain with his successor? A bargain which had some part in it which Agravain and I could fulfill? I urged my pony faster and passed Agravain at a gallop, anxious and miserable now. My father always made plans for me, but I fulfilled very few of them. The sea-wind and the wind of my speed dried the salt in my hair, and my pony's hooves echoed the beat of the surf; better to think about these than about my father. It would be good to get the confrontation over quickly, as quickly as possible. At least, I thought, looking for some good, Agravain hasn't asked me what I was doing at Llyn Gwalch.

The thought of my brother made me look back in alarm. He was a good hundred paces behind me, struggling with his horse on the rough path and scowling furiously. There were two things I could do better than he: riding and harp-playing. He liked to forget this and, as he was infinitely the better at fighting, I tried not to remind him. Now I had done so. I cringed, knowing that he would pick a quarrel with me on a pretext later in the day, and slowed my pony to a trot. He passed me without saying anything and rode in front of me, also at a trot. That was Agravain. He wanted to be first, and nearly always was. First-born, first choice to succeed my father as king, first among the boys of the island who trained to be warriors. My father was immensely proud of him, and never stayed angry at him for long. I stared at my brother's back and wished that I could be like him. We rode on to Dun Fionn in silence.

The fortress is built from a very light stone, from which it takes its name, "White Fortress." It is a new stronghold, completed in the year of Agravain's birth, three years before my own, but already it was as famous and powerful as any of the other, older forts, Temair or Emhain Macha in Erin, or Camlann and Din Eidyn in Britain. It stands at the highest point of the cliff, overlooking the sea, ringed by a bank and ditch and its thick, high walls. Two gate-towers, copied from old Roman forts, flank the single westward-facing gate. The fortress was designed by my father, and the power and fame were the result of a myriad of schemes and manoeuvres, political and military, carried out with unvaried success. If it was my mother who was the ultimate source of the schemes, it was my father, King Lot mac Cormac of the Innsi Erc, who had carried them out in such a way as to make himself one of the most powerful kings in either Britain or Erin. As Agravain and I rode in the gates, I wondered nervously what he wanted me to do.

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