Synopsis from back of book:
The year is 1072.
The Normans have captured England. The Turks have captured a Norman knight. And in order to free him, a soldier named Vallon must capture four rare hawks.
On a heart-stopping journey to the far ends of the earth, braving Arctic seas, Viking warlords, and the blood-drenched battlefields, Vallon and his comrades must track down their quarry one by one in a relentless race against time.
The scale is huge. The journey is incredible. The history is real. This is Hawk Quest
In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.
If Ken Follett, George R. R. Martin and John Flanagan had a love child, the result would be this epic book.
Robert Lyndon has an excellent understanding of the medieval world and he brings it to life in this story. Just like in John Flanagan’s Rangers Apprentice and Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, Lyndon brings this knowledge to the reader, and gives clear understanding to the world, but what is clever is that it is blended into the story in such a way that it never feels like a lesson. There were moments that he made something sound so interesting I found myself wanting to find out more about whatever subject he was talking about.
There is a gritty realism to the story, like Follett and Martin, Lyndon doesn’t have a problem with making bad and unpleasant things happen to our characters. This is not to say it is a depressing book, there are plenty of happy moments and the characters have hope even in the darkest of times. But character deaths can be sudden, brutal and without meaning, the normal rules of whom and how you kill off do not apply. Failure is always an option in this story.
I also enjoyed how the author brought in the characters superstitions into the story, and they could sometimes make themselves see more in something that there really is. It is realistic in how people would act and believe back then, it also brings in a supernatural and fantasy element, but because you cannot be certain that something a character is witnessing is simply an overactive imagination it keeps it grounded in the real world.
The details and descriptions in this book are amazing; they describe beautifully the world and action. It is always easy to picture the world with every sense. There are so well written that it never feels like it is taking up too much time or dragging.
The characters are wonderful; they have complex and distinct personalities. None of them are the simple cookie cutter types that we have seen before, and they have many layers to them. The interaction between the characters is amazing; between the good characters is a strong sense of friendship and companionship, with antagonism and aggression directed towards the evil characters. What is especially clever is that much of what goes on between the characters is subtlety done, only a careful reader will catch everything that is going on, but you won’t miss out on too much if you don’t pick up on those little clues. Another clever thing is that people and groups don’t always stay on one side or the other, an enemy can become an ally, or a friend may end up betraying the group, and it is never obvious when or by whom this will happen.
The characters develop nicely throughout the book, they progress in a natural way and become better and more interesting characters. As part of this progression we find out bits and pieces of the characters history spread throughout the book and we learn more about our heroes in this way too. There are many wonderful thoughts and ideas of the characters in this book.
This author does a great job or realistically portraying something’s that could easily be overlooked, such as one characters surprise and confusion of the concept of zero, something that we take for granted now-days but back then is something that most people wouldn’t really think about.
The story is fantastic, it reminded me of epic journeys such as the Odyssey, where the characters are trying to complete a journey but keep facing trials that slow them down or take them away from their path. It was very interesting seeing where the characters would go next or how they would face and overcome the next obstacle.
I really hope to see more fiction works by this author; this book is easily the best book I have read this year, and certainly in the top ten books I have ever read. For possibly the first time ever, I was sad to finish a book, knowing that it will be a long, long time before I read something that I enjoy this much again.