This is an extraordinary series, much more historically authentic than most historical fiction. Besides that, the characters are vivid and the action intense. And THIS is the sequel a lot of us have been waiting for, because Talon is finally able to continue his quest to find out what became of Rav'an, whether she still lives. Talon had sworn to do so, and he is a man who keeps his word.
That's part of the reason it has taken him so long to return to Jerusalem: he is oath-sworn to serve the Templar knights, since they saved his life when they offered him protection from the prosecution of a vengeful Abbot, whose larcenous machinations Talon had spiked. In their service, he has traveled to Constantinople as messenger and ambassador. But the Church has a very long arm; old enemies are plotting Talon's destruction, and the only way to keep Talon from their clutches is to send him into danger, where priests and their spies dare not go.
Ling Baldwin IV, The Leper King, has a tenuous hold on the Holy City of Jerusalem, but the vast armies of Salah-ed-Din are massing to reclaim it for themselves and to plunder any town or fort along their route. Talon is sent by Sir Guy de Veres to help defend these places, and finds himself in the thick of deadly assaults, political intrigue, and playing a crucial part in terrible battle of Montgisard. When he is offered his choice of any reward by none other than the King himself, he is granted liberty to take up his search for Rav'an. And so, the falcon flies free at last.
Talon's journey across the desert is at once desolate and majestic, and the author conveys the dangers and beauties of this deadly land so perfectly you feel that you are right alongside Talon through it all. Talon has to call on all his knowledge and skill to disguise himself as a merchant named Suleiman, and even that is not enough to save him from denouncement and imprisonment in the dungeons of Bagdad.
One reason Talon survives his many ordeals and adventures is that he befriends the most surprising people, like old men, and women, and beggars, and so-called enemies. Like the falcon he has been named, he sees clearly and is not deluded by rank, or wealth, or the lack thereof. He follows the compass of his heart and the warnings of his instincts.
And so at last he wins his way to the one person who can tell him the truth about Rav'an... and then go where no man has ever gone —and lived.
Two aspects of this series especially impress me: the author clearly has a great deal of knowledge of and respect for his subjects, and he has a sense of the absurd that pops up in the oddest places. When it comes to politics, the worst enemy is the one on your own team; and if a noble friend is the best thing, a noble enemy is the next best. True chivalry rests on knowing that, and in that regard Talon is the truest of knights, no matter where he goes.