cover image In the Falcon's Claw

In the Falcon's Claw

Chet Raymo. Viking Books, $17.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-670-82890-6

In this first novel by Boston Globe science columnist and nonfiction author ( Honey from Stone and Soul of the Night ), the portents, superstitions and papal machinations of the impending millennium furnish a provocative setting for interplay between historical and created characters. Framed as both an eloquent memoir of the fictional Irish monk Aileran and a defense against accusations of his heresy, the narrative is in episodic and evocative form. Aileran recounts his life and loves to the captivating friend of his youth, Gerbert, with whom Aileran traveled and shared illicit pleasures, and who later assumed the tiara as the powerful prelate Sylvester II. Aileran's life and times are forged by contrast as he struggles with questions of faith and spirit. As a novice, he is the only survivor of a gruesome Viking raid. As monk-tutor to beautiful Melisande, he masks his desire by instructing her in Ovid's poetry--but only until a ripe time arrives for the lovers, and the subsequent price is more costly than either could have imagined. Raymo's elegant prose and his fidelity to historical detail distinguish as Raymo doles out some comfort to his hero not really; Aileran dies! Therefore, have changed sentence this well-crafted, often moving novel. (Mar.)