Peter Dickinson generally is recognized as one of England’s most respected writers of mystery and detective fiction, having written more than a dozen such novels. He is also renowned for his children’s books. The Blue Hawk, though a children’s book (winner of the Guardian Award as best children’s book of the year), contains sophisticated subject matter and a philosophical approach that would not typically appeal to young children. Advanced secondary school students may find it both challenging and compelling.
Most of Dickinson’s novels, for children or adults, revolve around one central predicament: the Fall. In The Blue Hawk, Tron realizes that the sterile life he lives as a priest is the result of a fall from an earlier, more vivid life that some still experienced to a degree in the southern city of Kalakal, an Eden that is far enough away from the priest-ridden Kingdom of O and Aa to escape its ennui and conformity.
The novel is also a classic story of the dangerous journey of a young man into the world of the unknown. As in many quest stories, the young hero discovers not only new worlds but also new systems of belief and, thus, new possibilities for living his own life. He discovers that the priestly order demands that he become only what it will allow and that imagination and intuition are dangerous to the community. Fortunately, Tron experiences periodic visions from deep within his soul; following them inevitably leads him to greater truths and more fulfilling experiences.
The Blue Hawk is a romantic novel insofar as Tron’s most important discovery is the discovery of himself as an individual and not simply as a priest who repeats what he is told and obeys his leaders without question. His crucial tie to nature via the blue hawk saves him from an empty, ritualized life and enables him to help the king to regain his kingdom from the ignorant darkness of the priestly caste of the Kingdom of Gdu.