The first Hawk Queen novel is a by-the-numbers Gemmell novel, nowhere near on par with his Drenai, Waylander or Sipstrassi novels - the three Gemmell series I consider the best.
Ironhand's Daughter suffered in several areas.
The main character, Sigarni, remained unlikeable throughout. To begin with, practically all men were in love with her (the dwarf, the forester, the black man, the man from another clan, the simple villager, even the old drunkard was a letch). She had sex with three of those men, and treated all with a cool indifference.
Later in the story something happens to Sigarni which turns her into an emotionally cold person bent on vengeance. Admittedly what happened was tough, but if I'm honest it was her immediate retaliation after this event that for me was the best part of the novel.
From there on it's all about creating tactics to fight off the Outlanders, leading ultimately to a battle. Throughout this huge chunk of the novel Sigarni gradually becomes more accepting of male company again, and unites the Highlanders, commanding them to kneel to her and swear their allegiance.
The other thing that bogged the story down drastically was the heavy-handed prophecying throughout. From the very beginning we know Sigarni is Ironhand's daughter, of course. But we also know she will lead the clans against the invaders. There are several seer-type characters, and because of these there are no surprises, no twists. Even the old drunkard foresees his coming death at the hands of a few soldiers, so when it comes at the end of the novel no one's really bothered. Almost every major event in the novel is not just foreshadowed, not just hinted at, but spelled out for us way in advance.
Using too much 'chosen one' cliche and peppering a story with heavy-handed foreshadowing never does any good. It may have been acceptable in the mid-20th century, but for a novel released in 1995 by arguably one of the best fantasy authors of the time, it didn't work. These tropes are the marks of unimaginative authors, and David Gemmell has certainly showed himself to be much more than that in his earlier and later works.
I finished Ironhand's Daughter feeling unsatisfied, but I still finished it. Definitely one of Gemmell's weaker novels, and I'm in no rush to continue on to The Hawk Eternal, the second and final book in the series.