Raoul will one day be baron of peaceful marshy Marckmont, but until his eighteenth birthday, he’s under the protection of his Uncle Armand, Count of the bleak and windy crags of Ger. Armand has no love for the slight and introspective Raoul, and can’t understand why his nephew would rather play chess and write songs than hunt animals. Raoul, a romantic, likes to think about beautiful things, but at Ger, “you must be smothered in blood before they think you are a man.”
When Raoul is told he can’t go with Armand’s company to the tourney in Belsaunt, he sneaks away and visits the tourney anyway. There he sees, and instantly falls in love with, the beautiful lady Yseult de Olencourt. He is flogged when he returns to Ger, so he runs away and seeks a position in a noble house until he is old enough to claim his quiet and solitary barony.
After leaving Ger, Raoul meets the folk of the land, including a runaway murderer, a few witches, a large warrior woman with flame-red hair, the three deadliest outlaws in the area, a brave serving girl, and several lowborn life-long friends. He also has several frightening adventures in which he surprises himself with his actions. His consideration of these episodes, and the advice he receives from wise people, teach him much about life, love, men, women, and himself. For example:
- “we have oftener to choose between two wrongs than between a wrong and a right.”
- There is “none so cruel as a slave come suddenly to power.”
- “Why do men like killing, boy? Because it is an usurpation of the power of God. What God began, they have ended; red with the mortal sin of murder, they feel godlike power, and fall into the mortal sin of pride.”
- It’s the men in the army who earn the fame for their Lord.
- To gain peace, there must be war, and sometimes brutal acts are required.
- The clod looks at a woman with two eyes: “The eye of contempt, and the eye of desire. No wonder women look for gold and gear beside.”
- “For the thing which sets men naturally at each other’s throats, and the other thing which bids them blush or frown at touch of a woman’s body, there must be somewhere a reason…”
- To be noble is “to have the power, and to refrain”
Leslie Barringer’s Gerfalcon is a beautifully written and exciting coming-of-age epic with a loveable introspective hero who learns that peace has a price and that his own heart’s desires are not to be trusted. The prose, though slightly archaic, is easily read and the story is full of incisive insights into (and sometimes gentle mocking of) human behavior. Gefalcon would be a great read for a mature teenager, if you can find it (Barringer’s fantasies are out of print). Beware of the ebook version which I read (Renaissance E Books) — it’s full of typos.