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The Falcon's Eyes    by Francesca Stanfill order for
Falcon's Eyes
by Francesca Stanfill
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2022 (2022)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Francesca Stanfill's The Falcon's Eyes moves back and forth in time through twelfth century France and England to portray the life of famed and ever willful Eleanor of Aquitaine from the perspective of a much younger admirer who became very close to the monarch. Even as a teen, Isabelle (disliked by her mother for her outspoken views and independent nature) admired the much reviled Eleanor.

The novel opens just after Eleanor's 1204 death in her beloved Aquitaine at the abbey of Fontevraud, with Isabelle in attendance. Isabelle saves papers the queen had commanded her to destroy - why? The abbey is surrounded by King John and his men, and Isabelle must very soon flee to Eleanor's daughter's court in Castile. During the night after the Queen's death, she reflects on what has gone before, and shares her own story with us.

It all starts with an arranged 'marriage to a stranger'. Gerard, Lord de Meurtaigne, is rich, pleasant enough, obsessed with his falcons, and focused on begetting a male heir. After losing two babies, Isabelle fears pregnancy and takes steps to avoid it. Gerard obtains a divorce and Isabelle is sent back to an unwelcoming home. However, she has made friends in high places who find her a position at Fontevraud.

When Gerard discovers the measures Isabelle took to avoid pregnancy, he threatens retribution and Isabelle flees to England, where her friends have arranged for to be companion to Eleanor, imprisoned at Salisbury. So begins the development of a strong friendship that lasts until the queen's death. Isabelle vows to safeguard Eleanor's legacy, while trying to protect herself and those she loves from Gerard.

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