Friday, December 17, 2010

Guards of Haven

I finished the second three-book omnibus of the Hawk & Fisher series. This actually concludes the series, although there's a seventh book that brings Hawk & Fisher and Simon Green's earlier Blue Moon Rising together, making the not surprising revelation that Prince Rupert and Princess Julia from the Blue Moon book actually are Hawk & Fisher, before they leave their homeland incognito. This omnibus is made up of three books; first, Wolf in the Fold in which Hawk & Fisher have to impersonate nobility while being locked in a tower, having to solve a murder (and find a spy) in a plot that's not too unlike their first book. Second, we have Guard Against Dishonor, which I liked best of all the stories, in which Hawk & Fisher are separated and assigned to separate assignments temporarily, but which (naturally, as happens coincidentally in fiction everywhere) end up being the same problem after all. Finally, Bones of Haven is one where two kings are in town to sign a peace treaty, but terrorists take over the house where they're located, and Hawk & Fisher are given the assignment to work with the SWAT team to get them out. The SWAT team here being a specialist wizardry and tactics team, including a blessed (or cursed) negotiator who can't ever pick up a weapon, but who also can't be killed (well, so he thinks), a tactical leader, a weapons specialist and yet another Guard sorcerer.

While the stories and plots were interesting enough, especially the second (and to a slightly lesser extent the third) book in the omnibus, quite frankly by the end of the run, I'm a bit tired of Hawk & Fisher. They aren't really developed much through an entire six book run. They don't grow or mature as characters, really. Even the setting remains pretty much unchanged. The formula and pattern of the books didn't change over time significantly. And for that matter, even the paragraphs that first describe the characters Hawk and Fisher are word for word the same (or at least nearly so... I didn't actually go back and compare them word for word, but after reading them six times, I'm pretty sure that they had very little to distinguish them from each other, if anything.)

This kind of static development; or lack of development, I probably should say, makes series of books start to wear thin with me after a while. In standalone books, it's not quite as bad of a problem, because it can be overlooked and overcome if the characters are themselves interesting enough, and if the plot is interesting enough.

Be that as it may, there were certainly some interesting aspects to these second three books. Guard Against Dishonor in particular had what approached being character development, as Hawk and Fisher, operating under misinformation, behaved in ways that seemed almost out of character, or at least stretched their characters for a bit, before getting them back together again, getting them all the facts about what was going on, and settling back into a familiar routine again. Green also manages to create a few genuinely creepy scenes in that book, particularly when Hawk & Fisher have to go into a tavern where there have been a spate of particularly brutal murders in broad daylight. It's not clear exactly what caused them, and that unknown quality, as well as the reveal of what it actually is, is quite effective. It's also not really Green's style, though... in Bones of Haven, he could have done that too, when H&F and the SWAT team go into the maximum security supernatural wing of the prison to quell a riot, they get a quick rundown of all of the supernatural entities on the block as well as their capabilities before we see any of them. While that's probably realistic given the situation... it's not exactly tense.

Green's rather tongue-in-cheek setting development continued apace as well, occassionally making the Hawk & Fisher series seem almost like a parody series rather than one to take at face value.

The end result of this rambling, nearly stream-of-conscious approach to book reviewing? I liked Guards of Haven well enough, I suppose, but I didn't love it. In fact, at times, I struggled to be motivated to pick it back up again, although every time that I actually did, I made pretty good progress and found the reading light, breezy and easy. Where I struggled most was with the whole unnecessariness of it all. Green did everything that needed doing with Hawk & Fisher in a lot fewer than six books. This was apparent when the first book in the second omnibus almost recreated the plot of the first novel from the first omnibus. But even with new plots, it still felt like there were one or two novels more than there really needed to be, considering that any setting development was kind of minimal (and incidental to the plots anyway) and character development was shallow and didn't advance at all from novel to novel.

I have a hard time feeling too harshly about these flaws, though, because Hawk & Fisher did so many other things that I liked. It falls a bit into the same category of better b-movies that you kinda like in spite of their flaws; sometimes even because of their flaws, which make them endearing to a certain extent.

Will I go on and read the "prequel" where Hawk and Fisher have their original names still? I doubt it; it's had decidedly mixed reviews online. But, I probably need to read that if I ever intend to go read the non-omnibused seventh Hawk & Fisher book, where Green finally takes them out of Haven, returns them to their roots in the Forest Country, and develops them more than he has in all of the six books I recently read. If anything, it's got even rockier reviews than Blue Moon Rising, but I do kind of crave a sense of closure, so although I've had enough of Hawk & Fisher for the time being, I might yet revisit this last novel at some point.

In the meantime, I'm also going to have to keep Jim Butcher's Side Jobs on the backburner while I have a look at two interlibrary loan books that I have to read before they come up due. The first of these is Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi, a prequel novel of Indy when he's a grad student in 1922, trying to decide if linguistics or archeology is what he wants to do with his life. I'm not necessarily holding out any notions that the book will be great, but I've been kind of jonesing (no pun intended. Well, OK, yeah... I did intend it) for some more of that same vibe ever since reading The Hunt for Atlantis recently, and since Indiana Jones is the prototype, I figured it was better to get it straight from the source rather than from a newer imitator.

No comments: