Review: The Falconer's Apprentice, Malve Von Hassell

“Buy this book for someone you really like”

Link to: The Falconer’s Apprentice, Malve Von Hassell

Reviewed December 2019, by CR

There are people who claim to remember past lives. Their memories are crystal. The long-ago events, people, places, the contours of an old horizon: all of them flicker into the present with an authenticity that brooks no other explanation. I don’t believe them. But sometime in the future, as Alzheimers sets in or my fragile sanity fails a little more, I may tell you that I once lived in the thirteenth century, that I flew falcons, that I travelled in a little painted cart through Germany and Italy, that I met the Holy Roman Emperor and his imprisoned son. I will tell you that I remember it all as vividly as yesterday (but when was yesterday? and where was I?) so it must have happened. And perhaps (you may be doddering next to me in some institutional chair) you will say, “how strange… I think I was there too.”

The Falconer’s Apprentice is a quiet, haunting book that slips its tendrils into the mind, plants itself, takes root. At first I resisted a little – this gentle book is far from my everyday reading – but somehow the magic of flying the falcons held me, just long enough for me to lose myself and stop caring what sort of book I usually read. Once I had felt the weight of a falcon on my wrist, sensed its talons through the heavy leather glove, watched it soar into the air and circle for its prey – the book had me. Malve von Hassell’s writing is limpid and full of casual detail: the unfamiliar smells, colours, technologies, manners, expectations. All are perfectly researched but so lightly interwoven with the narrative that one breathes in the world as its characters do, owning it. The story delicately intersects with real historical events but is also the story of a boy growing up, an ordinary boy, one of the forgotten bit players in the sweep of that history.

This is a lovely book. It won’t grab you by the throat or make your pulse race – but it will take you to another place and time and you’ll be richer for that. Buy it for someone you really like. Even if it’s NOT the kind of book they usually read.

Rating: 5 out of 5.