DAW / 400 pages / July 2000
Essential ingredients for a good fantasy novel: high adventure, vivid characters, an obstacle to overcome, and a world not quite like ours. Check, check, check, and check. Mickey Zucker Reichert’s latest narrative has all that and more; it also presents a coming-of-age story of a very different kind.
Tamison, you see, is an unusual protagonist. Don’t expect the gung-ho, reckless, musclebound hero of most fantasy tales; this is a man beset with doubt, shame, and overwhelming fear. Rather than a coming-of-age, Tamison needs a coming into his own. Only by conquering his phobia can he hope to save the family that was taken away from him. Another interesting aspect of our hero — he is a family man and determined to regain that family.
The band of characters that join Tamison on his quest are a diverse bunch. Dallan, the brave and headstrong soldier, who holds the answer to where Tamison’s missing family can be found — can he be trusted completely? Rifkah, the fortune-teller, who is eager to help Tamison and to escape a town that fears any form of magic. And, perhaps most intriguing of all, the master-thief Con who is the cunning protector of the group…and the least trusted member of all. Together, they must put aside their animosities if they are to succeed, or even survive.
Actually, every character is a fascinating puzzle. What is the situation between Sheldora and Rannoh? Is Hiroise genuinely a man of honour amongst their enemies? What will he find if they can rescue his wife and children? Even Dog has a mysterious background.
And the future of every one of them depends on the outcome and fallout of Tamison’s quest. It’s a grittily realistic journey, full of hunger and poverty and danger. Flightless Falcon is one of the most faithful accounts of deprivation and the long slide into destitution portrayed in recent years. The descent is especially disturbing as the reader realises it happens every day in our world, and it can happen to any one of us.
Even without these fine points, the path of their mission is entertainment enough. Their travels through small villages, around small villages, into the depths of the wilderness, and even a river voyage, lead the reader through the extremes of the terrain and force the group to struggle to survive. The settings are vivid and realistic. The range of locations is alluring.
Before you even open Flightless Falcon, take time to appreciate the cover art. Judy York is one artist who took the time to get to know something about the novel; the cover is a teasingly perfect snapshot of the action in the book. It’s a coy invitation, or maybe a challenge, to sample the artistry between the covers.
Whatever the persuading factor, you won’t regret reading Flightless Falcon. Exploits, realism, weakness, and, finally, courage, are all along the trail in this fantastical adventure. Once you begin, you might very well make it a one-sitting read.