City Falcon

Title & buy link: City Falcon
Author: Feliz Faber
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M contemporary
Length: Novelette (40 PDF pages)
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

A guest review by Leslie S

Review summary: An intelligent, honest, and at times heartbreaking read with a unique setting and strong characters.

This review contains what may be considered as SPOILERS

Blurb
Ornithologist Hunter Devereaux lost everything in the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and was forced to go underground as a matter of survival. He’s just getting back to his feet, hiding among the native falconers at the Dubai Falcon Hospital, when a phone call from America threatens to drag his secret past to light and tear down the walls he’s built around his broken heart.

Review
It’s 1993, and for the past three years Hunter Devereaux has concealed his identity and been living and working under the name Sayad Al-Burayd as a falconer at the Dubai Falcon Hospital. His cover is blown when he receives a phone call from his former mentor, Dr John ‘Greg’ Gregory, who wants Hunter to join him on a project in the US. Greg also believes that Hunter is wasting his talents as a top class ornithologist and has concerns for Hunter’s emotional state in a country where homosexuality is illegal. But before Hunter can leave Dubai, he must finally be honest with Hamid—the man who saved his life in the desert, and who is now his friend and lover.

Eight years ago, Hunter left the US to work for a Kuwaiti prince, Faris, also a falconer. Hunter and Faris were lovers, even though Faris was married. Faris was the first big love of Hunter’s life, and Hunter suffers disillusionment and heartbreak when he first arrives in Kuwait. Accustomed to the affectionate and loving relationship he and Faris enjoyed in America, where they’d lived together openly, in Faris’ homeland the reality is completely different. Hunter thought he was prepared for it, but he wasn’t. Faris becomes cold and distant, even threatening violence on one occasion. Hunter knows the relationship is going nowhere, but he’s in love with Kuwait as much as he’s in love with Faris.

On a hunting trip into the desert, Hunter decides to break up with Faris. But Faris acts open and loving towards him, and Hunter is confused. The following day sees the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and Faris and Hunter are torn apart under horrifying circumstances. Hunter swears to get his revenge, even if it costs him his life.

Three years later, telling the truth to Hamid could also spell disaster for Hunter…

Desert Falcon is a strong novella that packs an emotional punch. There’s two threads to the story—the 1993 ‘present’ narrative and, through Hunter’s conversation with Hamid, the ‘past’ of 1990. Told from Hunter’s POV in first person, the result is an immersive and deeply personal tale that feels real in every way.

The story’s greatest strength is in its attention to detail. Though sparing with her words, the author nevertheless paints a vivid picture of time and place. Little things like the way Hunter crouches and rests beneath the portico while he waits, or the way Hamid views the world, all add authentic touches. Another of the book’s strengths is the simplicity of the language and phrasing, which makes the narration feel masculine, as well as complementing the arid desert setting and the pain Hunter carries within him.

Here’s an example of the writing, the mix of details and simplicity. Many readers will have seen falconry demonstrations at one time or another, and in this strong visual passage we share the emotions of a falconer exercising his birds:

Flying my falcons in the desert had always been my purest joy and my refuge. My falcon left my upraised fist and climbed the sky, her wings gilded by the setting sun. I waited until she circled high above me, just barely visible, then let out my call and started to twirl the lure. Thousands of times had I done this, but still my heart beat faster when the falcon plummeted down at breathtaking speed.

The dynamics of Hunter’s relationships with Faris and Hamid are compared and contrasted in a beautifully understated way. I really appreciated this aspect of the story: the complications that arise from the Arab silence surrounding homosexuality—not quite condoning, but not condemning outright, either. It’s something known but not acknowledged. Feliz Faber never moralises or shoves the facts down the readers’ throats—she simply uses her characters to show how things are, how things must be, and demonstrates how homosexuality fits (and doesn’t fit) into Arab culture and tradition. After all those whitewashed Harlequin sheikhs, Desert Falcon provides welcome relief with believable opinions and attitudes.

This isn’t a light-hearted read. It’s thoughtful, serious, and above all, it’s honest. That might seem a strange thing to say about a book in which the main character hides his true identity for much of the time, but it is brutally honest, painfully honest, and it will tug at your heart.

Desert Falcon is part of Dreamspinner’s Bittersweet Dreams line, which means no happy ending. This can be a deal-breaker to some readers, but to those readers I say—try this anyway! The setting is so different, so fresh and unique, and the story is so realistic and well told, that the lack of a happy ending doesn’t get in the way of the pleasure of being immersed in this tale.

17 comments

  • Hi Leslie! Very well done review! :bravo:
    I will definitely be getting this book. First off because Felize wrote it, and secondly because of the interesting location/culture!

    Books have taken me to a variety of places in the last few months. Kimberly took me to Japan, A.J.took me to the Greek Islands or somewhere near there(its been a long day). I am looking forward to visiting Oz from the books this past week.Oh, I’ll be going to Paris soon for Cole and Jon. And now this one too! Wow, pretty impressive! Looking forward to reading this. 😯

    Reply
    • Hey Reggie! You’ll really get a sense of place with this one, it’s subtle but powerful. I love finding books that have proper descriptions of place – much cheaper than air travel!!

      Reply
  • This story put me in a place I’ve never seen before, introduced me to a culture I’ve only read about, and made it all so very real. My heart ached for Hunter, and I got the distinct feeling that when he walked through those gates at the end of the story, that he was leaving behind the sorrow to embrace a happier future.

    I can hardly wait for the follow-up to publish. Hunter is one man who deserves a HEA. Fabulous job, Feliz, on the story, and to you, Leslie, for the review.

    Reply
    • That’s exactly how I felt too, Eden. Hunter has really suffered but he’s done his ‘penance’ and I was glad Greg forced him to face his past. I’m sure the sequel will be just as amazing!

      Reply
  • Leslie, thank you so much for your review! you did a great work with it; I’m with kkm here (although I sincerely hope you’ll read the book, too 😉 ) This was exactly what I aimed at, and I’m really happy it worked out for you.
    Also, thank you everybody for commenting. For those of you who wanted to see more of Hunter, good news here: my next book is due for release in August/ September this year – and this time, it’s not bittersweet!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Feliz – I really enjoyed it 😀 And I’m excited to hear that the next book is due out soon (okay soon-ish)! Looking forward to it!

      Reply
  • Leslie

    You should be proud of this review because it’s clear, concise, talks about the story in a way that makes the reader understand the issues facing the characters, and without revealing too much – which is hard to do.

    I read Desert Falcon and loved it as much as you did. I’m happy for Feliz that her first book is so well received and I’m not surprised that she wanted to write a “bittersweet” story.

    I agree totally with your assessment of the book and rating. Great job!

    Reply
  • Let´s hope Hunter gets no more bittersweet books. Not feeling for unhappy endings so I will skip it but I will keep an eye for future releases 🙂
    Thank you for your review 😎

    Reply
    • Hey Helena, the bittersweet thing is a *bit* misleading. I’d describe the story more as pragmatic than angsty. I don’t want to give away the ending but it’s neither happy nor unhappy, just realistic! Okay that probably won’t change your mind about it LOL :nuts: 😆

      Reply
  • What a very well-written review! I enjoyed Desert Falcon for all the reasons you mentioned, especially for its strong sense of place and culture. I thought she did an especially good job with Hamid’s dialog. He was so authentic. I also found Hunter fascinating and am glad to know he’ll be showing up in future fiction. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Val, I loved Hamid, his attitude was so believable and realistic IMO. He was a good foil to Hunter. It’s such a great book 😀

      Reply
  • raine – our review was so well written (almost lyrical) that i’d rather read it than any book!
    :0)
    -kkm

    Reply
  • Hi Raine, it really is a special book, one of those stories that stays with you long after you’ve read it. I was so pleased when Feliz said in her interview the other day that Hunter will have more books 🙂

    Reply

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