Friday, December 22, 2017

Forgotten Books Friday: Hawk of the Wilderness


Hawk of the Wilderness, by William L. Chester. Ace Books, 1935, 287 pages.

Hawk of the Wilderness is virtually a pastiche of Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It features a white family exploring to the north who end up wrecked in a wild land called Nato'wa, a volcanically warmed land above the arctic circle. They are taken in by Indians, who it is suggested in the book are the ancestors of North America's Native Americans. The husband and wife are killed and their baby adopted by an Indian woman, although he ends up fleeing the tribe and living in the wilderness for many years with bears. He becomes known as Kioga, The Snow Hawk. Eventually, another exploration party arrives and Kioga meets Beth, a white woman. The two fall in love with each other but many things happen to keep them apart.

I would have loved this book when I was in my teens but I'm no longer that naïve reader. There are a number of issues with it that weakened my enjoyment. First, the good thing is that it's very well written and full of wonderful description. There is a lot of action and adventure. The problem is that there's virtually no overall plot. The majority of the book is given over to Kioga's growing up and developing his skills, and this continues at great length until I, at least, grew bored with it. The book is almost 300 pages and should probably have been less than 200. There's a reason why ERB's books tended to be short. Only in the last third to a quarter of the book, after the arrival of the other white explorers, did an overall storyline emerge. It was too late to truly salvage the novel. The plot is what creates narrative drive and there's just not enough plot here.

The ending did have the kind of nice melancholy feeling that leaves you wondering what happened next. Chester did not leave his readers wondering for long. There are three more books in this series, Kioga of the Wilderness, One Against a Wilderness, and Kioga of the Unknown Land. The first one is over 300 pages long, which makes me wary. The other two are shorter. I may try the second book in the series at some point but not right away.

Overall, I gave the book only 2 of 5 stars. I still consider it worth a read, however.

More links to forgotten books over at "Pattinase"




6 comments:

Cloudia said...

"The book is almost 300 pages and should probably have been less than 200. " Yes, older films too - even classics - are so slowly paced to our eyes! WE are accelerated compared to someone's life in the 30's I'd say...

Rick Robinson said...

I read One Against the Wilderness when, as a kid, I found it in the library. I have almost no memory of it except that it wasn't as exciting as I'd hoped.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, absolutely and when I was 15 or so I wouldn't have noticed most likely

Rick, Not ERB, that's for sure.

Greg S said...

Good review. Sounds like the book had a lot of promise. Maybe some of the later ones in the series were better.

- Greg

Charles Gramlich said...

Greg, I'm gonna try another one in the new year, see how it goes

thedarkman said...

I have Kioga of the Wilderness as well. I have yet to read it, but figured I would eventually just because it’s a Tarzan clone. I’ve read all the Tarzan books and enjoyed them immensely as a kid, but they are kinda old-fashioned feeling now. Unless I’m in an old-fashioned mood!