Marian Thorpe in 'Exile' On Shining Wings

Today I’m delighted to welcome Marian L Thorpe to my blog today. Taught to read at the age of three, words have been central to Marian’s life for as long as she can remember. A novelist, poet, and essayist, Marian has several degrees, none of which are related to writing. After two careers as a research scientist and an educator, she retired from salaried work and returned to writing things that weren’t research papers or reports.

Her first published work was poetry, in small journals; her first novel was released in 2015. Empire’s Daughter is the first in the Empire’s Legacy series: second-world historical fiction, devoid of magic or other-worldly creatures and based to some extent on northern Europe after the decline of Rome. In addition to her novels, Marian has read poetry, short stories, and non-fiction work at writers’ festivals and other juried venues.

Marian’s other two passions in life are birding and landscape history, both of which are reflected in her books. Birding has taken her and her husband to all seven continents, but these days she’s mostly content to move between Canada and the UK.

Marian has contributed an evocative story featuring Olai the Northman, a story of loyalty and love for a falcon, to the recently released Historical Stories of Exile.

Banner for Historical Stories of Exile

The gyrfalcon, largest of the falcon family, is a bird of the Arctic – and a bird highly valued in medieval falconry across Europe and Asia. Not only are they large enough to take down a swan or a crane, but in the white form, they are exceptional beautiful bird. Their hunting prowess, their size and beauty, and the great difficulty in obtaining them from the Arctic cliffs where they nest meant they were a falcon fit only for a king or emperor. Throughout the medieval period, gyrfalcons were often presented as gifts from one royal to another, and the gift that frames my story On Shining Wings is one of historical record. About 1225, Haakon IV of Norway sent hunters on a two-year expedition to Iceland to catch gyrfalcons for Henry III of England.  The hunters brought back back three white and ten grey gyrfalcons, which, as Haakon explained in a letter to Henry, the extreme cold and difficulty of the expedition made these birds more precious than gold or silver.[i]

Nowhere (at least that I could find!) is it recorded who brought the birds from Norway to England, but it seemed reasonable to me that one of the men who’d captured the birds might be sent along to care for them on the voyage. After all, they’d been caring for them for two years and must have been both skilled in their feeding and maintenance, and, I would think, have grown attached to the birds. Olai, my character, is completely fictional—but he could well have existed.

Olai’s descent down the cliff to capture the fledgling gyrfalcons may or may not be how these birds were captured: I based it on stories from a work colleague, who had grown up in the Faroes in the 1950s and had used the described technique to take seabird eggs and chicks from the cliffs. But other than that imaginative recreation, almost all the rest of Olai’s duties are based on historical record. When he says that his lord de Hauville is paid more to feed the birds each day than he receives as a groom for the falcons, that’s based on, the records of the Exchequer, which records the wages of a groom as 1 ½ d a day in this period.[ii]

Olai’s lord de Hauville is an amalgam of real characters: the de Hauvilles were chief among the royal falconers during the early part of Henry III’s reign (and with sole care of the gyrfalcons);  the de Hauville estate in Northamptonshire was one of their properties where birds were kept. But I couldn’t determine exactly which de Hauville – so he goes unnamed, reasonable since his mews groom Olai would almost certainly not think of him as anything but his lord.

The story Olai tells to his grandson within On Shining Wings is imaginative, based on my own love of the fenlands and washlands of East Anglia (an area favoured by Henry III for hunting heron and cranes)  and forty-five years of birding (in which I’ve seen only one gyrfalcon in the wild). But it’s plausible – I hope!

[i] Thierry Buquet. The Gyrfalcon in the Middle Ages, an Exotic Bird of Prey (Western Europe and
Near East). Burnett, Charles; Van Den Abeele, Baudouin. Falconry in the Mediterranean Context During the Pre-Modern Era, 9, Droz, pp.79-98, 2021, Bibliotheca Cynegetica, 978-2-600-06236-7.
[ii] Robin S. Oggins. The Kings and Their Hawks: Falconry in Medieval England. Yale University Press, 2005.

Connect with Marian

Read Marian’s novel:

Empress & Soldier
A boy of the night-time streets. A girl of libraries and learning.

Druisius, the son of a merchant, is sixteen when an order from his father that he can neither forgive nor forget drives him from home and into the danger and intrigue of the military.

Eudekia, a scholar’s daughter, educated and dutiful, is not meant to be a prince’s bride. In an empire at war, and in a city beset by famine and unrest, she must prove herself worthy of its throne.

A decade after a first, brief meeting, their lives intersect again. When a delegation arrives from the lost West, asking Eudekia for sanctuary for a princess and support for a desperate war, Druisius is assigned to guard them. In the span of a few weeks, a young captain will capture the hearts of both Empress and soldier in very different ways, offering a future neither could have foreseen.

A stand-alone novel that can also serve as a second entry point into the Empire’s Legacy series.

Buy Marian’s book here: (Goes to your local Amazon store and other retailers)


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA,  Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, starts the Foundation stories. The sequel, EXSILIUM, will be out in January 2024.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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