Meredith Rankin's Reviews > The Falconer's Apprentice

The Falconer's Apprentice by Malve von Hassell
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it was amazing
bookshelves: historical
Read 2 times. Last read December 29, 2019.

This well-researched novel brings the 13th century world of the Holy Roman Empire to life. The hazards of travel. The limitations and possibilities of medicine. The political unrest, social order, and hardships of day-to-day living. And especially, falconry. 

The novel centers on Andreas, but it also centers on his relationship with Adela, the falcon he rescues. Or rather, he steals. Laws about who could own hunting birds were complex, but everyone knew this: if the owner condemns the bird to death, then the bird must die. No exceptions. Likewise, everyone knew that the penalty for being caught with a hunting bird above their station was severe. Adela is a peregrine, the type of falcon that can only belong to those of a high social class; obviously, Andreas acts illegally when he rescues her. 

Andreas is a social misfit at the castle: he's an orphan with no social status. His father is unknown; his mother is dead. He learns to avoid the spotlight. But his intelligence, good work ethic, and way with the falcons often bring him unwanted attention. 

Early in the book, Andreas sees several boys pelting a bird with stones. Though these boys often bully him, his outrage at their cruelty fills him with courage. When he stands up to them, the boys run and he saves the bird. Immediately I liked him. I enjoyed how his imaginative, sensitive mind works. It's easy to root for him (and Adela, the falcon ordered to be killed) as they escape. He hopes that Adela can find sanctuary at the castle of Frederick II, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and lover of falcons. 

The other characters are well-portrayed. Though Andreas does not know who his biological father is, other men fill the gap and influence him as he comes of age. There's Brother Stefan, the tutor of the castle boys; gruff Oswald, the head falconer at Castle Kragenberg; itinerant trader and spy Richard of Brugge; Nicholas, who introduces him to the wonders of medicine; and even Enzio, the imprisoned illegitimate emperor's son. Von Hassell does an excellent job bringing the characters to life. 

The story unfolds at a much slower pace than many modern novels do. 

As I read, I was reminded of the old classic children's novels such as The Trumpeter of Krakow and The Door in the Wall. The lush historical details, the medieval time period, the characters who are good, brave young people trying to do the right thing during difficult times: these are books to be savored, not devoured. The Falconer's Apprentice fits right in with these Newbery Award winners. It's a fantastic book, one that parents can read to their entire family or that one person can enjoy at her leisure.

I can see this being a terrific supplement for children/young adult studies of medieval European history.

Thanks to Henry Roi of Odyssey Books for a copy of The Falconer's Apprentice in exchange for an honest review.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
Started Reading
December 29, 2019 – Finished Reading
January 2, 2020 – Shelved
January 2, 2020 – Shelved as: historical

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