REVIEW: The Falcons of Montabard by Elizabeth Chadwick (aka Susan Hicks)
Dear. Ms Chadwick/Hicks,
Brava! Those who liked Seton’s Katherine need to check this
one out. Like in Katherine, we get a wonderfully accurate picture of life in the Middle Ages. In this case, life amongst the crusaders in Palestine while it was still in the hands of Europeans. I enjoy how you’re not hesitant to give the lead characters flaws and while some will cavil at the heroine marrying another man before finally hooking up with the hero, I thought it added a great deal of authenticity to the story. I have to mention how the story made me want to sit up half the night tonight looking for information on the Crusader Kingdom in the Middle East. And to me, that is the sign of an interesting book well told.
Many of the secondary characters of the story are just as interesting as the main ones. I especially loved Fergus, a man who’s lived in the Kingdom of Jerusalem for over 20 years and who is cousin to the heroine’s father. The man loves his whisky and fights like a demon, yelling Gaelic curses all the time he swings his battle ax. Usamah, who is the nephew of the Emir who at one point holds the hero and heroine captive and who shows the viewpoint of the Saracens. And the women of Montabard and the various harems who struggle to survive in a world that fells even the strongest of men. And who frequently astound the men with their strength and courage.
You have a wonderful way with language and like Seton don’t bash readers over the head with translations of medieval terms but instead you do us the honor of assuming we’re intelligent enough to look them up if we don’t already know them. The descriptions are fabulous and make sense for the time. Mud is described as being fetlock deep and tension is “winding within him like the rope on a mangonel.”
The story slowly and graciously unfolds at a pace that never careens wildly from event to event but that never drags either. It is a book to be savored and it’s an A for me.