The Falconers Apprentice

Written by Malve von Hassell
Review by James Hawking

Andreas lives at Castle Kragenberg in the German-speaking part of Frederick II’s vast Holy Roman Empire. The teenage orphan suffers abuse from local boys, especially the count’s son Ethelbert, but Andreas enjoys doing his Latin lessons and aiding the falconer in training hunting birds. When his favorite falcon, Adela, scratches Ethelbert, and an order goes out to kill her, Andreas hides the bird and eventually runs away with her in a cart owned by a trader/entertainer who also works as a spy for the emperor.

The parts of the book are divided by quotes from Frederick’s The Art of Falconry. As would be expected, the novel supplies information on the types of birds and their suitability for the social status of those who hunt with them: “Gyrfalcons are for kings… goshawks for poor men, female sparrow hawks for priests, male sparrow hawks for clerks, and kestrels for knaves.”

As the cart travels through Italy, the sympathetic hero also practices the art of healing, using useful medieval medical techniques such as cleaning and stitching wounds. Like most good young adult novels, this is a bildungsroman. The story of the young man’s education is uncluttered with love and has only minimal violence.