And I answered, "Anything."
A breath later, Zane echoed my response with, "Everything."
— Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (Hawksong)
(Hello, Ms. Atwater-Rhodes! Are you reading this?)
I've always loved animal-human hybrids, no matter what I said in the Angel review. Edit - I like them when they aren't already overdone. I mean, werewolves are cool and all, but would it hurt so much to have a ferret-person? How about a platypus-person? Anyhow, bird and snake people are common enough on their own (not really), but Ms. Atwater-Rhodes takes it a step further by adding in different species of birds and snakes and creating a hierarchy and an entire society out of them, and even mentions other species of animal-human. What I also like is that she at least hints at the existance of humans within the book. Not that I think having a book with no people in them are bad, but I think they are hard to pull off well.
Onto the book itself. Hawksong is a masterpiece of setting, eternal wars, change, romance (ugh) and desire for peace. The bird-people (avians) and the snake-people (Serpiente - thanks Jelle!) have been in eternal war for oh-so-long, fueled by killing, revenge, and more killing - a vicious cycle. Finally, the two newly appointed leaders of the avians and Serpiente, having seen all close to them die in combat, decide to stop the war. The only deemed way for them to convincingly convince their people to stop fighting is to marry. The only thing is, they have to convince the Serpiente that they love each other, while the main character, Danica, is quite frightened by the leader of the Serpiente, Zane. There is love, but it's their job to fight through rivals and almost-assassinations to find it.
What I liked most about this book was its unorthodox plot and setting. I can see Danica and Zane marrying and being desperately in love, or Zane being pure evil and Danica killing him, but when I read the book, I was surprised and pleased by the turnout. Yes, there's a happy ending, but what Ms. Atwater-Rhodes does that most authors forget is that there is sacrifice. I feel, personally, that there can't just be a happy ending. I'd probably torment my characters if I ever wrote a book because I feel suffering and sadness are just something one should include; it's in real life, why leave it out of books? The setting was beautifully described - and not only the physical place, but the emotions of the time - the intense hatred and rivalry between the bird- and snake-people. Well done!
Overall, I'd think that this book would be a food sophisticated, yet simple enough for any palate, like sushi. Beautiful to look at, a little bit of doubt once you read the summary, or find out what the sushi is made of, namely raw fish and seaweed, and satisfaction once you actually bite down. I don't actually like sushi, but I liked this book, and the analogy worked perfectly.