Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Falcons of Fire and Ice by Karen Maitland

The year is 1539 and the Portuguese Inquisition ushers in an era of torture and murder. When the Royal Falconer is imprisoned on false charges to remove him from the inner circle of the boy King, the Inquisitors strike an impossible deal with his daughter, Isabela. Bring back two rare white falcons from Iceland within the year or her father dies.

Meanwhile in Iceland, a menacing stranger appears to have possessed the soul of a woman chained up in a volcanic cave and is threatening to destroy the community. The woman's twin sister, Eydis, is desperate to intervene but vivid dreams suggest the twins' only salvation lies with a young girl from afar, travelling in search of white feathers ...

Isabela's quest might hold a more crucial purpose then she could ever imagine and there are those among her travel companions who have an interest in doing her harm. But in order to fulfil her destiny, first she must reach Iceland's shores. Alive.

Step back in time with Karen Maitland's Dark Tales and discover a world full of imagination in The Falcons of Fire and Ice - 'a thrilling horrible vision of the Dark Ages' Metro

Karen Maitland travelled and worked in many parts of the United Kingdom before finally settling in the beautiful medieval city of Lincoln. She is the author of The White Room, Company of Liars, The Owl Killers and The Gallows Curse. The latter three titles are available as Penguin paperbacks.

In 1539 Portugal, the Inquisition is wreaking terror upon Jews. Even Christianized Jews are being burned at the stake. Isabella is the daughter of the young King’s Falconer. When the king’s most precious white falcons suddenly die, Isabella’s father is wrongly arrested and sentenced to death. But a glimmer of hope exists to save his life. If Isabella can replace the two rare white falcons, and bring them to the king within a year’s time, her father will be saved from execution. When Isabella leaves for her quest, she does not know about Cruz, a Portuguese charlatan who must save his own life at the hands of the Jesuits by killing Isabella while on her quest. 

In Iceland, conjoined twin sisters Eydis and Valdis are both feared, and revered, for their ability to prophesize, and are imprisoned in an underground cave where a hot spring keeps them warm. But evil possess Valdis, and if her spirit is unleashed, harm will come to the people of Iceland. Eydis is desperate to prevent this from happening and waits patiently for the young woman she has envisioned in her dreams to arrive to save them.  

The dark writing of Karen Maitland takes the reader on an adventure filled with danger and shocking events. A blend of history, fantasy, and the paranormal, The Falcons of Fire and Ice is an intriguing read. Each chapter begins with a definition pertaining to falconry followed by a small story or legend. The story is divided into chapters, each narrated by one of the main characters. In this way, the story unfolds in a well-rounded, informative manner. 

The novel starts dramatically, slows a little in the middle, but then picks up at the end. The character Cruz, is very entertaining and speaks to the reader with humor and a bite of sarcasm. This novel is very dark and I would classify it more towards the fantasy genre than historical fiction. 

Although the cover is utterly unappealing, I did enjoy this novel and recommend it for readers who like a touch of the “odd and unusual” in their medieval/fantasy novels.

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