Monday, December 8, 2008

Debut Break: HAWKSPAR by Holly Lisle

Every once in a while, I need to take a break from debuts and read something by a seasoned writer. I have not read a Holly Lisle book since the 90s, when I read The Secret Texts trilogy. After finishing Grimspace, I looked for something different. And since Tor has been filling up my to-read pile with lots of nice hardcovers, I thought I'd choose something from that stack. Lisle was the most familiar to me.

Holly Lisle has published thirty or so novels. She is famous for being very supportive of aspiring writers, and her website is a treasure trove of information. You can tell just by looking at her site that wow, she's been writing for quite a while.

Here is Tor's blurb:

Stolen away from their families, they are slaves, women with no names and no futures. Every moment of their days controlled by the avatars of the stone Eyes--Obsidian, Emerald, Raxinan, Ruby, Windcrystal, Sapphire, Sunspar, Tigereye...

And the most powerful of them all, Hawkspar, the eyes of time. Kings and despots come to her to know their futures, and she wades in the river of time, pulls apart its sticky threads, to arrange the world to her satisfaction.

But she too was once a slave, plucked from her home, chosen by the Eyes to live in service to them, as much a slave now as she ever was. And with her sight into past and future, she can see the secrets of the Eyes--and the evil of the Eyes.

Before the death of Hawkspar, another must be chosen by the Eyes--but the avatar has her own plans, and chooses a slave for her courage and rebelliousness, rather than her dedication to the goals of the Eyes.

This slave is put to trial, but time after time, she is protected by forces unseen. Once she has swallowed the bitter liquid and has her eyes pulled from her head and replaced with the Eyes of Hawkspar stone, she can slip into the streams of time... and use time to her own ends -- to free the slaves once and for all, and destroy the Eyes, even if it means destroying herself in the process.

This story is about a slave, and her fight for freedom. She is a member of the Tonk race. Rather than a nation, the Tonk are spread throughout the world. It turns out that there are quite a few Tonk among not only Hawkspar's fellow slaves, but among the Oracles themselves. And one of them has cooked up a plot. Once the slave--who, through most of the story, doesn't remember her name--takes on the Eyes, she becomes Hawkspar, and she immediately sets her predecessor's plans into motion. Then, she cooks up a few plans of her own.

I love novels about oppressed people fighting for their freedom. And this one was as good as any I've ever read.

There's a few things you can count on in a Holly Lisle novel. One is the great maps. There are two in Hawkspar, one a world map, and the other a zoom in on the mini-continent of Hyre. My main complaint here is that these maps appear to be for the first book in the series, Talyn. These novels stand alone--I didn't at all feel like I had to read Talyn to understand Hawkspar, but the maps seriously needed to be updated. No cities mentioned in Hawkspar appeared in the map at all.

Another Holly Lisle trademark is the visual magic. In Hawkspar, there are two forms of magic. One form, used exclusively by Hawkspar, is a river of time, sketched so well that I could envision it. The second, used by the Tonk, manifests itself as brightly colored polygons and circles.

And finally a good sign of a Holly Lisle novel is the religion. And here I can see Lisle's growth as an author since the last time I read her work. In The Secret Texts, I had a very difficult time accepting the religion, and especially the religious conversions. Most especially when the main characters converted. Here, Lisle was MUCH more subtle. It reminded me of how they handed the Elysian Fields in the movie Gladiator.

I would definitely classify Hawkspar as an epic fantasy. I enjoyed Hawkspar a great deal--it is one of my favorite reads of 2008. I understand from the author's blog that the future of the third book, Redbird, is still undecided. And that's a shame because there were some unfinished questions in Hawkspar for which I wanted answers.

I want to read Talyn now. Maybe I'll read that for my next debut break.

Hawkspar - Amazon USA, UK, Canada
Holly Lisle's Website and Blog
These novels come out in paperback in the summer of 2009

14 comments:

T.D. Newton said...

I've been a big fan of Holly's website for awhile now but I haven't checked out her actual books just yet. Now I have a recommendation so it won't be long, I figure.

Tia Nevitt said...

That's exactly how I learned of her books!

T.D. Newton said...

Power of Word Of Mouth in action. It really DOES work.

No, seriously, a LOT of the fantasy I've read in the last year or so has been based on recommendations from James over at Speculative Horizons. This includes Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie and even George R.R. Martin (I'd seen the books on the shelf but hadn't wanted to take the plunge).

The thing is if someone else has read a book and is able to say "yo, this is a reasonable story and not full of nonsense" then I really am more likely to read it, but it also works the other way (for example, I will probably stay away from Robin Hobb's work except as a last resort just based on what I've heard).

SciFiGuy said...

I read Talyn a ways back and really liked it. Didn't know more in the series was out or planned. Nice.

Tia Nevitt said...

Ooh, I'm glad I got a recommendation for Talyn! Thanks, SciFiGuy!

Maria said...

I like a LOT of Holly Lisle's books. I'm glad you talked about this one--I had no idea it was out. I'll be on the lookout for it!

Sara J. said...

I'm actually in the midst of Hawkspar now, and enjoying it. I'm not certain because I'd almost have to reread it at this point, but I seem to recall Talyn as being one of the best books I have ever read, so I'm giving it another recommendation! I really hope that the third book comes into being, because I think this particular world is one of Lisle's best creations... I had to order Hawkspar in specially because my bookstore never stocked it, which is odd because it's a major store and has a large selection... I wonder if marketing has just failed this particular book--at least in Canada anyway.

Tia Nevitt said...

Sara, see her blog for more details. Just do a search for "Hawkspar" once you are in the blog.

Joely Sue Burkhart said...

I found Holly's blog first, and then started reading her books. I did enjoy Talyn but from the excerpts of Hawkspar she posted years ago, I really think I'll enjoy it more. Maybe once the current wip is wrapped up...

Tia Nevitt said...

Joely, the novels each stand alone. They are just all set in the same world. The future of the third book looks somewhat doubtful, so this may be it.

Joely Sue Burkhart said...

Tia, sorry, I meant MY wip. I already blame you for tempting me with Brent Weeks' Night Angel trilogy (I picked up the rest of the trilogy over the weekend, and it's killing me not to dive right in!)!! I'm sure I'll enjoy Hawkspar too -- but I *must* finish my NaNo project first. Reading will be my reward. :-)

T.D. Newton said...

Interesting that Brent Weeks was brought up. I have The Way of Shadows taking up space on my shelf because I bought it last month with birthday cash. Ahead of it in line are The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd and Witch by Marie Brennan. I also have a David Gemmell novel in the stack and I'm picking up Altered Carbon from the Library today. Too much writing, not enough reading... and it doesn't help that I've been driving to work rather than riding the bus. Darn these double-edged gas prices!

Joely Sue Burkhart said...

I bought The Way of Shadows a week or two ago but wasn't going to start it (as I said, it's a reward). I deliberately didn't pick up the rest of the trilogy. Although I was highly intrigued by Tia's posts here, I wasn't sure if I was willing to invest my limited reading time on another meaty fantasy series. (I'm still waiting for Sanderson to finish Robert Jordan's last Eye of the World book, and then I've sworn to read the whole series start to finish again.) However, I did start scanning the first chapter of Shadows, and it was so good I found myself sneaking a bit more. I ended up buying the rest of the trilogy this weekend.

Talk about incentive for me to write faster -- I'm really looking forward to diving in for a good long read! Hopefully over the holidays.

Tia Nevitt said...

We're going to be covering Brent Weeks in more depth in upcoming weeks.

Joely, I've taken a reading break lately to work on queries and such. My Alphasmart Neo helps me eek out some extra writing time, because I'm not tied to the computer when I use it.