|Falcon Flies, A (1997) [Novel]|
by Wilbur Smith
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Dr Robyn Ballantyne, daughter of a famous missionary and explorer, returns on a joint expedition with her brother Zouga, to southern Africa the land of her birth, fired with the desire to bring the Africans medicine, Christianity and an end to the slave trade, still flourishing in 1860. Great is her agitation when she discovers that the very clipper she and her brother are taking passage on from England is in reality a slave ship and the debonair American captain, Mungo St John, a slaver himself. Irresistibly attracted to this man but at the same time repelled by his ruthlessness, Robyn resolves to fight him to the last - a course she is supported in by the fanatical anti-slave trader the English naval captain, Clinton Codrington, with whom she makes contact in Cape Town. When she and her brother then take passage on Clinton's ship to their destination in Portuguese East Africa, her resolve is further reinforced by their encounter with a slave dhow whose cargo of human misery they try to save from wreck on a reef while the Arab slaver flees to safety.
On arrival at the mouth of the Zambesi, Robyn and Zouga leave Clinton, who is by now deeply in love with Robyn. Together they plunge into the uncharted African interior, experiencing the beauty of an undiscovered land, and the terrors of a treacherous guide and hostile tribesman. But the simmering conflict between them soon makes it clear that further travel together is impossible. Zouga's desire to seek his fortune and Robyn's obsessions with tracing their legendary father and investigating the slave trade are incompatible.
So Zouga sets off with Jan Cheroot, his faithful Hottentot companion, to hunt for ivory and gold. He finds the secret cavern of the African oracle, the Umlimo, and in stealing a soapstone falcon figure from the ruins of an ancient city, he begins the fulfilment of the sinister prophecy that the loss of the stone falcons will bring desolation to the people of the land. Meanwhile Robyn finds the slave route and all but falls victim to the slavers herself, saved at the last minute by the man she both loves and detests, St John himself. Forced to accompany him on his ship, she nonetheless makes a desperate and successful attempt to contact Clinton, and ultimately precipitates the violent seabattle between him and St John which with the tense trial that follows it forms the climax to the novel.
A Falcon Flies is remarkable for its sense of the African wild, grimly informative about the slave trade, and alive with the obsessions and impossible love of its strongminded heroine. It is the first of the four Ballantyne novels.
Original title: A Falcon Flies
Genre: Fiction→ Adventure→ Wild Frontiers And Exotic Lands