I have been looking for a book like "The White Hawk" for some time. Trudging my way through endless volumes of Wars of the Roses books which include beautiful women, love matches, supernatural powers, and god-like York men, I had begun to wonder if books of substance existed. If you have been looking for a novel with more scenes of battle than bedroom, you will find it in David Pilling's story.
I was shocked at first to realize that this novel is written from a staunchly Lancastrian point of view. Richard Bolton (yes, the main character is unfortunately another Richard to keep track of) watches the Lancastrian army that he and is father are a part of get crushed at Blore Heath in the opening of the book. This leads to a vicious circle of revenge as neighbors chose their sides.
In this realistic look at the Wars of the Roses, not all men are noble and brave, and the women are not all complacent beauties lucky enough to marry for love. Life is gritty and harsh. Richard, Duke of York, is not portrayed as the man saving England from a daft, if pious, King. He is a grasping, arrogant nobleman who, along with Warwick, lead the country into devastating civil war. Edward, Earl of March, is still the giant, blonde soldier, but also a man of only 18, not the savior of England.
Not to say that the Lancastrians are shown as all good compared to the evil of York. Our hero(?), Richard Bolton, makes some horrible decisions that he justifies because of his father's battlefield death that he inwardly considers murder. He puts his family and himself in danger through these impetuous actions. His brother, James, starts out as an eye-roll inspiring version of the stereotypical lusty, drunk priest, but war does change some men for the better.
This book, which I received as a free Kindle download, did have some typos which I hope do not find their way into print versions. Besides that the style of writing is beautiful, not the overly-simplistic style that I find too many novels make use of.
Overall, "The White Hawk" was a well-written reminder that supporters of Lancaster were not simply murderous mercenaries, but everyday Englishmen who were defending their King. Pilling ends with the dramatic Battle of Towton, but as this is listed as Revenge #1, I hope to read more from him.