by Katia Fox
sequel to The Copper Sign
William FitzEllen's mother may be one of the greatest swordsmiths in 12th century England, but her son's passion lies elsewhere. While she wishes him to take over her forge, William wants to be a falconer, spending his days taming hawks for the hunt. A chance meeting with King Henry II opens a path for William to pursue his dream. He begins training under an experienced falconer, whose son Robert becomes William's best friend. Unfortunately, the two boys are also the favorite targets of a young knight named Odon, who bullies them at every opportunity. As the years pass, William's natural affinity with birds allows him to rise in position and station, but his life is also beset by difficulties as the vengeful Odon does everything in his power to knock William back into obscurity.
This is quite a brick of a book – the ARC I was sent by Amazon is over 600 pages – and when I started reading, I initially thought the book was aimed at middle grade readers. The language is fairly simple, the dialogue stiff but serviceable. The story took a sudden turn, however, when a beautiful young girl strips off her clothing and joins William as he bathes. The sex and violence continually ramps up throughout the novel, eventually including rape and sodomy and just about everything inbetween. This book is most certainly not written for children. The novel was originally written in German, so I can't say if the initial youthfulness of the text is the result of the author trying to capture the hero's age or simply an unimaginative translation.
The novel is rich with detail about medieval life in England. As William slowly progresses up the social ladder, readers can see how life differed for each class. I really enjoyed learning more about life in the forges, although I wonder what the odds would have been historically for a woman to run her own forge. This unusual set-up made me want to read Fox's previous novel, The Copper Sign, which tells the story of how William's mother became a smith. Reading the previous book definitely wasn't necessary to understanding this story – I have a feeling that the books in this series can be read in any order. Certainly, this one was written so that it could stand alone.
Although he occasionally acts a little too much like a contemporary teenager, for the most part William remains a man of his times. At times, this might make him a bit unpleasant to the reader – when he learns that someone he trusts is a homosexual, he cuts him out of his life and treats him quite cruelly. But within his culture, when sodomy was a burnable offense and a crime against God, his reaction is perfectly reasonable. But a modern reader may be bothered by his attitude.
The story is a little formulaic – William is given an opportunity, Odon screws it up, William's down and out for a bit, then he brushes himself off and rises even higher. But it's a great adventure story on a grand scale. I really enjoyed William's adventures, and I'm looking forward to picking up the other two books in the trilogy.
4 out of 5 stars
To read more about The Silver Falcon, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Discussion Question: Bookish Websites - Where do you go?
2011: Pride and Prejudice (Marvel Illustrated)by Jane Austen, Nancy Butler
2010: News: Press “Pause” on the Piranha
2009: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
2008: Book Blogger Appreciation Week Award Nominations