Silk Road by Colin Falconer

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Silk Road by Colin Falconer

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: A sweeping narrative involving charismatic characters set in and around 1260 AD. A Christian Knight Templar has the unenviable job of escorting a rather grumpy holy friar across the Silk Road encountering many obstacles, many differing nations and a clutch of not-easily forgotten individuals en route.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: October 2011
Publisher: Atlantic
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0857891082

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Falconer presents his readers with a handy map of the famous (or perhaps that should be infamous) Silk Road which stretches from Europe all the way to China. The story opens with a charismatic young princess who lives with her extended family in an area of Mongolia. She is clearly the apple of her father's eye. So much so, that he will often take advice from her, rather than from his two older sons. She would be a prize catch indeed as a wife for any man, but the feisty Khutelun has other plans. She wants plenty of adventure and glory in her life. She doesn't want to be a baby machine and besides, no man has caught her eye. Yet.

Until Josseran, Knight Templar makes his appearance. She fights this attraction she feels for him. He's a barbarian, after all. Never mind he's from another country, he may as well be from another planet, they have so little in common. Their paths have crossed briefly, he is simply passing through on his mission and they will never meet again. What is they say about never say never?

I immediately liked Josseran. Falconer paints him as manly, brave, trustworthy but, he also has a nasty skeleton or two in the cupboard. As this is a big, thumping book in terms of pages, Falconer can go back in time and give his readers some information on Josseran before he embarks on this hazardous journey. And we are also treated to a flavour of those times. But rather than overload us with facts and figures, Falconer's light and engaging style won through. I enjoyed his storytelling voice so much that, had this book been say, set in modern times, the intriguing main characters would still have been able to pull it off.

The gruff holy man, William has been entrusted with, what many would say, was an impossible one. To convert those heathens in the east to Christendom. He's an ambassador of the pope, no less and thinks this will give him an easier passage, an easier time. Think again William. He comes across as a tireless and unquestioning servant of his religion. Funnily enough, I thought him a much older man and was surprised somewhat when Falconer revealed him to be only in his thirties.

As a man of prayer, of meditation etc William is not a natural traveller. He's rubbish on horseback, for instance and there's a lovely piece where Josseran saves the day - again. These two men make for unlikely travelling companions but as they have no choice, they rub along. We witness all sorts of danger, food shortages, drought, heat. But there's also a little well-placed humour too. It all works beautifully.

The story encapsulates a colourful tapestry of different nations and cultures. Lines such as The narrow streets were crowded with heathen, the turbans and chadors of the Jews and Modammedans bobbing everywhere, the alleys choked with their filth and excrement and The bazaars were clamorous from dawn to dusk with the jibber-jabber of the hawkers bring strong images.

In deep contrast to the above, there are plenty of vivid descriptions of sublimely luxurious living. The Chinese elite, for example, want for absolutely nothing and there are some charming conversations between those of the east and the west. A rich tale covering an iconic route within a tumultuous historical period, told in a lively and engaging voice. Thoroughly recommended.

If this book appeals then you might like to try Breaking Bamboo by Tim Murgatroyd.

Buy Silk Road by Colin Falconer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Silk Road by Colin Falconer at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Silk Road by Colin Falconer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Silk Road by Colin Falconer at Amazon.com.


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