Book Three of the Wereworld series
By Curtis Jobling
Available now from Viking (Penguin)
While I prefer to read series in order, I did skip the second book in the Wereworld series. I caught on to what was happening pretty fast, although I did miss one or two important instances of character development. I do think it's best to at least read the first book (RISE OF THE WOLF) before jumping into SHADOW OF THE HAWK, because it lays out the groundwork for how the world works and introduces many of the characters. (This is a series with a gigantic cast. Forgive me if I get any names wrong.)
Drew, our protagonist, is the last of the Gray Wolves and has a claim to the throne of Lyssia. His half-brother Prince Lucas wants to keep the throne in Werelion hands. They each have their supporters, although Drew begins SHADOW OF THE HAWK cut off from his and stuck in slavery, serving as a gladiator. (I'll give you three guesses as to whether he incites a rebellion, first two don't count.) Meanwhile, his staunchest allies are sailing to a prospective safe haven and the two coolest female characters from the first book are MIA. (Gretchen and Whitley, you are missed.)
The rightful king who will bring peace to the land is not a new plot in children's fantasy. But Curtis Jobling's take is appealing. There's lots of different societies to be navigated, all sorts of monsters, and you'll probably like at least one of the main characters. At times, SHADOW OF THE HAWK does feel a bit too sprawling. Drew's fortunes change several times and his brother Trent makes a meaningful journey, but most of the other plotlines have less direction. (And I can't even talk about Hector, oh my.)
I've enjoyed the two Wereworld books I've read, and they're surprisingly quick reads. (Each book is rather thick.) But the quickness might be because they're often shallow. SHADOW OF THE HAWK has a high body count, but I wasn't all that affected by the deaths. Some of them were certainly horrible, but there was none of that horrible wrenching feeling that occurs when a character you empathize with dies.
But, as you can probably guess from the covers, this is a series for young boys. I suspect that they eat it up - even if their parents might be unhappy about some of the violence. But SHADOW OF THE HAWK is well suited to its intended audience and a pleasant enough diversion to older fantasy fans.