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*The Falconer's Knot: A Story of Friars, Flirtation and Foul Play* by Mary Hoffman- young adult book review

The Falconer's Knot: A Story of Friars, Flirtation and Foul Play
by Mary Hoffman
Grades 7-10 288 pages Bloomsbury USA April 2007 Hardcover    

The Falconer's Knot is a terrific tangle of clues and characters. This medieval mystery smoothly combines fact and fiction, adding an illuminating layer of history to the intrigue of a murder investigation. A fascinating glimpse into the preparation of paint used by artists of this time period embellishes the tale with a touch of beauty and ingenuity. The authorís love and knowledge of Italy sets this story in an interesting atmosphere certain to please young adult readers.

The paths of teenagers Silvano and Chiara cross at a friary and a convent. Although neither of them has taken their vows, they have been placed in these religious institutions for their protection. Silvano has been wrongly accused of murder, while Chiaraís lack of a dowry offers an uncertain and penniless existence. Although these young people chafe at their confinement, they eagerly learn the common business venture shared by the friars and the nuns; the skill of grinding and mixing pigments for paints offers a challenge as well as some art lessons.

When several murders upset the tranquility of their religious retreats, Silvano and Chiara find security in their deepening friendship. Despite a dim outlook on their respective futures, a flicker of hope wavers in their hearts as they wonder about a life together.

Historically accurate and emotionally engaging, this story connects to readers on several levels. The budding romance between the main characters is sweet, as the setting of the Middle Ages highlights the refined rules of courtship. The societal restrictions placed upon women offer explanations for the charactersí motivations and actions. The discussion of famous artists lends an air of credibility, while the authorís research of fresco painting and pigments piques the readerís curiosity. The suspense of the murder investigation provides a startling contrast to the beauty and elegance of this time period.

The Falconer's Knot is an exciting snare of a story!

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