Hawk of May

Hawk of May, by Gillian Bradshaw and originally published in 1980, is a retelling of the story of Sir Gawain, beginning with his youth and following him into adulthood.  Instead of the hot-tempered, fiercely loyal, skilled warrior, she portrays Gawain as an insecure youth, who is not a skilled warrior and fears he never will be.  To make up for his lacking as a soldier, he trains with his mother, Morgause, the sorceress.  Then he sets out on his own.

The re-imagining of a main character in the Arthurian story is a tactic taken by many modern authors.  In this way, Hawk of May is similar to The Mists of Avalon, The Book of Mordred, The Sword of the Rightful King, and I Am Mordred.  However, it is worth noting that Hawk of May preceded those other retellings, and is therefore one of the pioneers of this strategy.

Although sorcery plays an important role in the story, the setting is grittier and more realistic than the romantic portrayals of Camelot.  This grittier portrayal is somewhat common in the more recent Arthurian literature, like The Camulod Chronicles and The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy.

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