That is a cover only it’s mother could love, and she’s lying. So much has gone wrong. From the colors to the fashion to the font and the hands – it’s just a crying shame. I loved this book. I hate to see it go all ugly duckling in the packaging. First of all, our hero is not a Duke. He isn’t the lost son of a Duke, the unexpected 15th cousin of a Duke left standing after an outbreak of the plague or a Duke impersonator. Our Hawker is a straight up street rat with no apologies about it. I don’t understand the publishing fascination with bloodlines. Once you establish ‘rich’ I’m just as happy to have my fantasy tale happen without a Princess. Think about Paris Hilton for a moment. She’s had all the advantages money and ducal connections can grant. Now think about her siblings. Or her parents. Right. We’re done here. (I am sure all the Hiltons are perfectly lovely people, smart as whips every one.)
So back to Hawker. He’s a spy of course, because all of Bourne’s characters are in some fashion involved in the Napoleonic Wars. (In a good way!) It’s easy to do the French Revolution wrong. We’ve all read the books. It’s muddy, you meet Wellington, French Royalists are good, French Loyalists are bad, the English walk on water and everyone make a run for the Dover coast. (Sorry, I fell asleep for a second.) Bourne’s world is a more complicated one reflecting the true nature of people. Hawker isn’t sure why he’s loyal to Britain, he just is. Owl, his enemy counterpart, believes as completely in France. The difference between Justine and most French Loyalists is that she never changes her mind. What she is fighting for is the right of self determination. She is not blinded by the failings of an individual leader, her focus is on the goal of freedom for her nation. It’s easy to see why Hawker doesn’t hold that against her.
Bourne has a downright Walt Disney (the man, not the logo) gift for setting an atmosphere. When her characters are in France, they’re in France right down to the smell of bread in the air. When they’re in a cramped enclosure, you’ll throw the blanket off your feet to take the squirms off. While The Black Hawk is a story fans have been calling for after every one of Bourne’s books, readers have met Owl before. In The Forbidden Rose she makes her first appearance in Hawker’s life. That appearance (as well as other events from his life) are revisited seamlessly in The Black Hawk. Never feeling like a rehash, several events we already know from his life are illuminated as we discover the details of hers. As with all Bourne’s books, not every detail is answered. Some things, as we discovered in earlier books, are meant for later. There is more than enough here to satisfy, as two people who never had childhoods eventually find the way to their futures.