Sarah's Stars

Mary Hoffman. The Falconer’s Knot
Bloomsbury  $15.95  ISBN 987-0-7475-8890-0  297 pg.
Reviewed by Sarah, Age 16

There are many characters in the novel, The Falconer’s Knot, all of whom seem equally important to the plot. Silvano, however, is arguably the most central character and therefore the protagonist. His main opposition, unbeknownst to him for most of the story, is his best friend Gervasio. When Silvano is accused of murder, his life changes dramatically and he is thrust into a world of new faces. The most important of these new friends and acquaintances are Chiara and Brother Anselmo. Chiara is a young girl sent to a convent by her brother, a convent very close to Silvano’s friary. She soon becomes Silvano’s new love interest. Brother Anselmo is a trusting friar whom Silvano quickly befriends. Together they struggle through many frightening and difficult situations.

The Falconer’s Knot is set in Umbria, Italy in 1316. It is populated with people from all walks of life - from rich noblemen to beggars on the streets. Silvano lives in the capital city, Perugia, but when he needs sanctuary he is shipped to a friary in Giardinetto. The story unfolds in a picturesque Italian countryside and fourteenth-century towns. ‘The sky was blue and clear and it would be another hot day, like most of the days of his life.’ (Hoffman, p. 26) The mood, however, changes very quickly from as light and carefree as the setting at the beginning of the novel, to tense and puzzling. More than a couple of murders take place, and an uneasy, judgmental atmosphere reigns for most of the novel.  ‘The tension in the friary was palpable.  …the friars shifted uneasily and looked often at Silvano…’ (p. 189) It isn’t until the end of the story that the mood switches back to the lighthearted, fanciful tone in which it began.

The theme of this novel is faith; not just the fact that it is set mainly in a convent and a friary, but also in the characters‚ faith in each other. Throughout the novel the friars and nuns pray for each other in the times of rampant sin and bloodshed. They have faith that the Lord will rescue them from these dark and fearsome times. They even go so far as to bring the remains of a Saint to the Friary in an attempt to purge the evil spirits with the virtue of these ancient bones.  ‘…the friars of Giardinetto filed in…chanting the opening prayer of the Requiem Mass, as if willing the bones to do their work and flush out the murderer from their midst.’ (p. 231) Their undying faith in the strength of their deity helps them all through their personal struggles. Brother Anselmo never loses faith in Silvano, and believes wholly in his innocence even when all evidence points blatantly in the young boy’s direction. Silvano also keeps faith in Anselmo when he is under suspicion, although all the other friars look and treat him with misgivings and distrust. It is unwavering faith that keeps the two sane and able to cope with accusations from their fickle friends. Faith, trusting your heart even when common sense says not to. Even though The Falconer’s Knot takes place in fourteenth-century Italy, faith is still an important part of our lives. Faith in a religion or god helps many people through heartbreaking and challenging times. People’s faith in each other, or lack thereof, can be the foundation of wonderful friendships, or the reason they are never begun.

I thought that The Falconer’s Knot was an interesting book. The characters were well developed and intricately woven together. I would not recommend this book to anyone over the age of fourteen, due to the writing style, but that aside I believe that both boys and girls will enjoy this novel equally. There is seldom a dull moment in any of the characters’ lives, and each has their own struggles and triumphs with which readers can relate. Mary Hoffman’s latest release is sure to please her fans everywhere.

I think that The Falconer’s Knot deserves four stars because I enjoyed the style of Mary Hoffman’s Extravaganza series much more. The Falconer’s Knot was an excellent combination of lives and characters, but I felt that it was somewhat difficult to read since it switched very quickly back and forth from each of their lives and they all seemed to either have similar names or circumstances making it confusing at times.

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