The White Hawk takes place during fifteenth century in England and explores two rivals-Lancaster and York-who is at civil war with each other and is tearing the country apart. Henry VI is king and is unable to prevent these tragic events. He has no stomach for politics and is too weak to fight. This story also, follows the Bolton’s, a family who is caught up in this civil war and struggles to survive. They are loyal to the house of Lancaster and as the story begins with a battle scene-lives are lost, families are torn apart and revenge for the death of love ones takes hold and bad decisions are made and more lives are destroyed.
One of the first things about, “The White Hawk” that I was impressed with was the opening scene-a battle-very dramatic and detailed. Pilling gives you a clear picture of war, revenge and continuous political instability throughout this period. As the plot unfolds and his characters come to life-I was enthralled in such a way- I found myself holding my breath and clinching my teeth anticipating what is going to happen to next.
Pilling gives the reader a tremendous amount of history and he depicts medieval history brilliantly. One can tell he does his research and takes his findings seriously. I highly recommend this absorbing book to anyone who enjoys this period of time and who is looking for well-written historical fiction.
~Stephanie Moore Hopkins
Q&A with Author David Pilling
David, if you had lived during the time your story is set in, which side would you be on? Lancaster and York?
Even though my father is from Lancashire, and my story is told from the viewpoint of a family of Lancastrian loyalists, I would probably be for York. England was in a terrible state under the Lancastrian King Henry VI, and the Duke of York’s faction (initially) wanted to reform the government. Something that was badly needed.
Realistically, though, I would probably have been some no-mark peasant, and like most of the rest of the population merely done my best to survive in an extremely nasty world!
Even though Richard is my favorite character in your story, it seems to me like the act of revenge is a vicious circle and it makes a person make very mad or poor-if you will- decisions. Do you think Richard was justified in taking out his revenge? Or were any of the other characters justified?
The main theme of the book – hence the subtitle – is revenge and its consequences. The Wars of the Roses make for perfect subject matter in that regard, because the wars were largely driven by the desire for revenge. As Lord Clifford is supposed to have said to Edmund of Rutland shortly before killing him – “By God’s death, thy father slew mine, so I shall slay thee.”
Richard is a man of his time and so perhaps it is inevitable that he should seek revenge for his father’s death in battle. This was exactly the sort of vicious cycle that caused much of the English baronage to wipe each other out during this era. I think Richard’s desire for revenge is understandable, but some of his actions in pursuing it are unjustified and self-defeating. The same could be said for some of the other characters (fictional and non-fictional) in the book.
What interests you the most about this period?
The sheer level of brutality and the insane power politics, as well as the cyclical nature of events: the Wars of the Roses were very similar in many respects to the various Barons’ Wars that had preceded them, but no-one seemed keen on learning the lessons of history. Once again, as during the reigns of Henry III and Edward II, England had an incompetent king on the throne, and once again this led to the kingdom disintegrating into factionalism and civil war.
Who is your favorite historical character you have written about in your story and why?
That’s a difficult one. I’m rather fond of York: he’s torn between his natural ingrained loyalty to the crown, and his own ambitions and desire for reform. Taken in all, he was a rather strange and enigmatic character, and an interesting one to try and interpret.
How long did it take you to write, The White Hawk?
About five or six months, editing and revisions included!
Thank you David!