The Falconer’s Apprentice by Malve von Hassell

”That bird should be destroyed!”

Andreas stared at Ethelbert in shock. Blood from an angry-looking gash on the young lord’s cheek dripped onto his embroidered tunic. Andreas clutched the handles of the basket containing the young peregrine. Perhaps this was a dream—

Andreas, an apprentice falconer at Castle Kragenberg, cannot bear the thought of killing the young female falcon and smuggles her out of the castle. Soon he realizes that his own time there has come to an end, and he stows away, with the bird, in the cart of an itinerant trader, Richard of Brugge. So begins a series of adventures that lead him from an obscure castle in northern Germany to the farthest reaches of Frederick von Hohenstaufen’s Holy Roman Empire, following a path dictated by the wily trader’s mysterious mission.

Andreas continues to improve his falconry skills, but he also learns to pay attention to what is happening around him as he travels through areas fraught with political unrest. Eventually, Richard confides in Andreas, and they conspire to free Enzio, the eldest of the emperor’s illegitimate sons, from imprisonment in Bologna.

The Falconer’s Apprentice is a story of adventure and intrigue set in the intense social and political unrest of the Holy Roman Empire in the thirteenth century.

My Review

This is billed as a young adult book but do not buy it for any young adults you may happen to know as they won’t appreciate it for another couple of decades until they’ve got all rid of all that boring adolescent stuff that I won’t go into. They will probably enjoy it after that so buy it for yourself in the mean time and perhaps you could leave it to them in your will.

It’s a slow and life enhancing trip through mediaeval Europe.  It might be seen as a coming of age novel but really it’s a growing-into-birds-of-prey novel which is very much more interesting.  After all most people come of age so that’s not exactly unexplored territory whereas I didn’t know anything about keeping peregrines before.  The author is some kind of historian, so it also contains a lot of perfectly researched historical detail and the action cuts across some real live (well anyway none of the people seemed dead to me) historical events.  You will probably like this authenticity as I did but I think it would arouse the suspicions of any self-respecting young adult who would probably think you were surreptitiously trying to improve their school grades. 

It’s absolutely beautifully written.  A short read and never heavy.  The kind of book you could read on a really bad day and it would turn into a day you remembered with pleasure.

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