Historical Fiction

Falcons of Fire and Ice – Karen Maitland

10 September 2018
The Falcons of Fire and Ice Book Cover The Falcons of Fire and Ice
Karen Maitland
Penguin Books
March 1, 2013

1564. The Inquisition ruthlessly spreads fear - burning and torturing heretics - ensuring that no one opposes the Church's will and lives to tell about it. Caught in the Church's terrifying clutches is Isabela, daughter of the Court Falconer. The King's precious white falcons have been slaughtered and her father arrested and imprisoned for the crime. If the birds are not replaced he will die. Young but headstrong, Isabela knows only she can save her father. She must travel far to strange lands to find these rare birds. It is a journey that will take her into a dark and dangerous world filled with menacing people driven by fearful beliefs. But the Church has sent a companion to ensure she never returns . . . Step back in time with Maitland's Dark Tales 'Teeming, invigorating.' Guardian 'Glorious . . . a thrillingly horrible vision of the Dark Ages.' Metro 'Scarily good. Imagine The Wicker Man crossed with The Birds.' Marie Claire 'Irresistible.' Sunday Telegraph


Karen Maitland’s fourth book is a divergence from historical England to give us a perspective of Lisbon and Iceland in the 16th century. May 23, 1536, marks the day that the Inquisition was formally introduced into Portugal and was intended to root out heresy within the Church. It was not by definition directed specifically at Jews, but in countries where Jews had converted to Christianity in large numbers, it did largely focus on those who were suspected of continuing to practice Judaism in secret. Isabelle’s family and friends have Jewish sympathies and connections, and while not necessarily practising are aware that people have been executed for less. Her father is the King’s Falconer and he has a closer than expected interaction with the King, not to everyone’s approval.

Karen’s ability to create an atmosphere and landscape in historical times is amazing and how she carefully creates a character from these elements, is fabulous. The threats and fear during this horrific period are very well captured, with spies and rumour-mongering aplenty.

The main storyline focuses on a mission to capture 2 rare white falcons after the King’s Falcons are killed. Isabela is tasked with this assignment under threat that her father will be executed if she doesn’t replace the dead ones. The rare White Falcons are found in Iceland, a country that is following the Protestant faith and unfriendly towards Catholic regions. In addition, the Church has sent along a companion that must ensure she does not return, but who is he among the group of people that are travelling with her, as they become embroiled in this pacey adventure.

There is always a sense of threat in these stories and Karen makes them so vivid that it generates a suspense and allurement in the story that is totally engrossing. The landscape of Iceland is very well portrayed in the novel and the dark and dreary conditions add to the foreboding, menacing feeling.

If you love mystery, suspense and adventure, in a medieval setting, there is none better than Karen Maitland to deliver. Highly recommended.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley peter@thereadingdesk.com

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