Adrian Czajkowski, The Hyena and the Hawk (2018)

The Hyena and the Hawk

I’ve been delaying writing this review for a while now. The reason is quite simple: I couldn’t make up my mind about the final installment in Czajkowski’s Echoes of the Fall trilogy. But I figured this in itself is a fair indication of my experience with the book so there’s no need to wait until the muddled waters finally clear up :P.

I deeply admired the creativity, sheer scope, and ambition of Shadows of the Apt, as well as Czajkowski’s truly exceptional writing skills and the ability to maintain logical structure on something as immense and prone to sprawling as a series with an over 6k overall page count (not counting the short stories!). Not everything was perfect in a ten book long series, then again – there almost never is. I was truly impressed with Children of Time, a great SF standalone with a mad scientist, a colony ship, and spiders. I enjoyed the Guns of the Dawn, a flintlock spin on Pride and Prejudice. But the Echoes of the Fall, while impeccably written, left me unenthusiastic. All three are good books, there’s no question about it. And yet some vital detail is missing, and I can’t bond with the characters, nor force myself to feel invested in their fate.

But to the point. The third installment in the Echoes of the Fall series leads us back to Maniye Many Tracks and her small band of misfits, preparing to attack the soulless invaders who destroyed the Horse settlement. In the North the united tribes under the leadership of the unwilling, self-doubting recluse Loud Thunder, whose position strengthened after the victory over the Plague People on the ocean shores, prepare to march South. Asman, finally at peace with himself and his place in the world, gathers the army of the River Nation, and Venat, finally free, tries to rouse the Dragon to the oncoming war. Hesprec travels to the fabled kingdom of Serpent, taken over by the usurpers of Pale Shadow millennia earlier, either to find unexpected allies and knowledge necessary to stand a chance against the mysterious Plague People, or else – gruesome death.


Quetzalcoatl 2

All their stories converge neatly on the Plains, where the main advance of the Plague People blindly swallows village after village, while their curiosity, uneasiness and fear grow in equal measures at the sight of abandoned children and feral beasts. The most interesting concept was the idea that the conquerors, being soulless themselves, never really realized they are dealing with other people. It took a long time, a lot of curiosity, several mediators of different cultures and experiences, and a gifted prisoner who didn’t succumb to the Fear, to bring to their attention the fact that all those wild beasts attacking them might actually be human shapechangers, and parents of the lonely children the Plague People so carefully picked up along the way. The initial differences and fears are compounded along the way, the Insect Kinden never fully appreciating the fact that their sole presence destroys a different people’s way of life, and even actual lives.

There is a wonderful episode of Maniye as a prisoner of the Plague People, evoking faint echoes of the Pocahontas myth, and another brilliant scene, revealing the true identity of the tiny Insect Kinden who, along Kailovela, was a prisoner of the Eyrie. I was happy to find there the familiar face of Shadows’ Amelia Earhart, as I often wondered whether Czajkowski will ever take her story further, beyond the Shadows of the Apt series.

Amelia Earhart standing in front of the Lockheed Electra in which she disappeared in July 1937. Born in Atchison, Kansas in 1897, Amelia Earhart did not begin flying until after her move to California in 1920. After taking lessons from aviation pioneer Net
Credit: Science Source/Getty Images

There are also several strong, visually arresting moments, like the aerial bombing of the Echoes’ Teotihuacan, or the sudden appearance of the infamous Rat followers, or even the aerial attack of the Native tribes on the zeppelin of Plague People. Generally the whole book reads well, multiple POVs merging seamlessly and the action of the main plot flowing smoothly toward a preordained resolution born in the requisite bloodbath. It’s all done by the numbers. And I guess that’s my main grievance with The Hyena and the Hawk. Because in the end Echoes of the Fall, though full of good intentions and interesting ideas, feel more than a bit strained, and without flare and ambition of the earlier books or series. A work of an artificer and not an artist.

So it’s a complaint veiled in a compliment. I can’t really blame anybody for being a great artificer. However, I am spoiled by Czajkowski’s other works, and that intangible bit of wildness, of visionary abandon and creative courage is something I admired in his books the most. Maybe it’s me… And then again, maybe not :P.

It's not me it's you

And finally, the ending. Piotrek trashed the ending of the Shadows of the Apt series, deeming it overly idealistic and improbable. Fair warning: here it’s much more so, with a glaring example of the Deus ex Machina literary concept. It’s not like it hasn’t been alluded to before in the plot, but the logic of this resolution is patchy at best, and the uneven pieces badly stitched together. There is also a strong current of favoritism throughout the book – I just knew that all the main protagonists would live happily ever after, and even the inevitable casualties among the second tier of characters were either clearly hinted at before or simply not very important. Nothing on the scale of Tisamon’s death, or even Tynisa’s, which – at least for me – distinctly lowered the stakes overall. Especially that, as I mentioned in the beginning, I never felt any special bond with any of the Echoes’ main protagonists – maybe with a slight exception for Hesprec and Venat 😀

komodo dragons
There’s nothing like angry Komodo dragons 😉

All in all, the final installment in the Echoes of the Fall series delivers a solid, action-packed entertainment, toying along the way with more than a few quite serious questions and ideas. The answers given might not satisfy every reader, but undoubtedly Czajkowski’s take on the conquest of Americas is an intriguing and ambitious – if ultimately not entirely successful – effort of tying two separate series into one logical whole.

Score: 7,5/10


21 thoughts on “Adrian Czajkowski, The Hyena and the Hawk (2018)

  1. Sounds right up MY alley 😀

    Now, can you explain why a main character dying makes a book better for you? What exactly is it that that does? Is it something concrete enough that you can describe? I’m just curious…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I like happy endings and all my main protagonists alive. But when you have high stakes, like end of the world high, and a bunch of diverse main characters, you should at least feel some trepidation that some of them might not make it. In here, there was no such moment that would indicate them being in real danger. There were dangerous moments, but placed in such a way that there was no doubt they’d make it all right.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ok, drilling down here.
        WHY should you feel trepidation about the main characters?
        WHAT does that add to your reading?

        I’m not trying to be contrary here, please realize that. I am trying to understand what “flavor” a main character dying adds to the enjoyment.

        I think I understand, in that you want the outcome of the story to be in doubt for as long as possible, so that you can’t predict the end from the first page. Is that correct?

        Thanks for taking the time to go through this with me.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Exactly 🙂

          I don’t want to feel that the story is predictable and the protagonists are perfectly safe from the get-go. However, I don’t want them dying. I am deeply unhappy when they do. There is no morbid fascination in me awakened by the fact that they die, on the contrary – I can get very pissed off when I feel a character has been killed just for the sake of killing. Yes, Andrzej Sapkowski, I’m talking about you :P. But books are supposed to mirror life, at least to some extent. If a world ends, there is nothing safe or predictable about the situation. Even in our everyday life we don’t have the luxury of immunity to dangers, sicknesses, and whatnot. In this book I felt that the main characters had a sort of immunity granted by plot mechanics. The secondary or tertiary characters died in droves to drive home the “end of the world” message, but throughout the book, and especially in the bloody finale, I had a feeling that danger never directly threatened the main protagonists.

          So, to sum it up, I’m all for show and no tell. When I read that “End of their world is here” I expect to be shown exactly that. And I had been, especially in The Tiger and the Wolf. It’s just that in The Hyena and the Hawk I don’t feel the stakes. I am told about them, but I don’t really see them. To be clear though, that’s the first time I have encountered this problem in Czajkowski’s books – probably that’s why I’m so picky about it.

          Hope this clears things up a bit :).

          Liked by 1 person

              1. The good guys win, they always survive and then they get to ride off into the sunset and live out their lives in blissful happiness
                Then a generation of general ok’ness once they die then a generation of utter mediocrity then a bad generation THEN a new set of heroes.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Rather like Star Wars franchise… Except we somehow missed the ok generation and are already up to our knees in utter mediocrity/horrible badness there 😀 I can recommend Polansky’s The Builders then – gritty but seemingly very much aligned with your preferences 🙂

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Star Wars was exactly the kind of space opera I prefer. And if they had skipped about 2 generations for the sequels, I wouldn’t be so PO’d about how it’s being handled.

                    As for Polansky’s, I’ve read enough reviews of Low Town to not want to deal with him. You say the Builders is different though?

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Ditto to Star Wars! Why wouldn’t they just leave the original characters alone and start with something new, if they didn’t want to use the extended universe – though I’d like to see Thrawn in action! 😉

                      The Builders is a standalone novella with a strong Western vibe and the main characters are animals 😉 I believe there’s a review of it somewhere on our blog… I liked this novella quite a bit, but hadn’t read the Low Town for probably similar reasons to your 😉 I know I might sound blasphemous but I think there is a limit to grimdark 😛

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Thrawn would have been AWESOME in the movies, sigh.

                      I’ll go look around on your blog to see what you’ve got for the Builders.

                      As for “grimdark”, if that genre ceased to exist, and the perverse hunger of humanity for such things would stop, I would be pleased as punch…

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. Yeah, he would… and Zahn’s prequel about him, aptly called ‘Thrawn,’ is not bad either 🙂

                      It’s funny how many completely diverse books and authors get stuffed into that ‘grimdark’ box – from Erikson to Abercrombie and Lawrence. It seems to me that Cook was lucky to have written Black Company before ‘grimdark’ was even a thing 😉

                      Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read any of his books, but was unconvinced by the prose of the first 3 pages of Children Of Time, so I didn’t buy the book. I was not aware he had a 10 book series out. I’m kinda interested, but then again, 10 books?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Children of Time start slowly – the beginning is indeed underwhelming. But his take on spider evolution is brilliant – I’d recommend giving this book another try. As for the series, imagine IIWW in a world where people are divided into societies based on their affiliation with invertebrate, and they have certain abilities that go with them. Then add a very well described process of war-driven advances in technology, a bit of politics, a pinch of magic, and well written characters – and you have Shadows. Ten book is a lot, but they are worth it 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Sunshine Blogger Award #2

  4. Thanks! 🙂 It’s definitely not bad, not bad at all – it’s just I’m spoiled 😉 But Shadows are much better in my opinion, both in regards in the worldbuilding and the character development. What can I say, I am a fan 😉


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