If you enjoy a great, adventurous, historical novel with diverse, interesting characters, accurate depictions of geopolitics and geography, and a compelling and captivating storyline (and I certainly do) then you can do no better than “Hawk Quest” by Barry Lyndon.
This excellent book, 10 years in the making, follows the peripatetic journeys of Vallon a minor nobleman, disgraced in his own land, as he seeks to make his way in 11th century Europe.
Somehow Vallon manages to gather a motley crew of dispossessed and talented wanderers, and forges them into a force to be reckoned with. As they travel from the troubled land of Norman-conquered England to the frozen scarps of Iceland, onto the windblown steppes of medieval Russia and beyond, you will be transported to a time when life was, to quote Thomas Hobbes, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” and the most noble pursuit of all was just staying alive.
And the quest? To capture and transport four rare gyrfalcons back to the holy land to secure the ransom of Sir Walter, a Norman knight and crusader, languishing in Moorish captivity.
While it is true that the main purpose of the quest is the rescue of Sir Walter, all of the characters are engaged in their own personal and courageous endeavors. Vallon seeks redemption and forgiveness for the crimes that made him an outcast, the falconer and his waifish darling seek to make a new life together, and the young scholar pursues the dream of finding the lost Gospel of Thomas. There are villains and rogues aplenty as well. Sir Walter’s half-brother Drogo is determined to keep the ransom and rescue his inheritance from succeeding. Along the way they will meet Vikings that want to plunder them, jealous suitors that want to kill them and various villains and miscreants that seek to end their enterprise. Meanwhile the dangers of wild lands and wilder seas will test them to the extreme.
Lyndon is very knowledgeable in the realms of medieval history, and as an avid falconer and outdoorsman gives good account on those subjects as well. His characters are well-developed and believable and the sea and land adventures are exciting and well-versed.
This is a book that you will not want to see end.