The Falcons of Fire and Ice – Karen Maitland

  • The Falcons of Fire and Ice
  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Joseph (16 Aug 2012)
  • My Rating – 3 stars

    I’ve really enjoyed two of Karen Maitland’s previous novels, The Owl Killers and The Company of Liars but I wasn’t so keen on her last book, The Gallows Curse. Still, I was keen to read The Falcons of Fire and Ice and see if it would captivate me as much as The Owl Killers had.

    The Portugal of 1539, complete with the terror of the Inquisition, was rather different from the view from my Portuguese sun-lounger – yes, the heat of the sun was rather intense but hardly a match for the pyres erected by the Jesuits in their efforts to hunt down and destroy the Marranos (Christianised Jews who had fled to Portugal from Spain). Meanwhile, in Iceland, the Catholic population face similar persecution from the conquering Danes. Isabella, daughter of the Portuguese Royal Falconer, faces the virtually impossible task of travelling alone to Iceland to capture two extremely rare white falcons – if she fails her father will be executed. Meanwhile, back in Iceland, the oracles, twin sisters Eydis and Valdis, anxiously await Isabella’s arrival at their remote underground cave.

    Yes, there is a lot going on – an ongoing battle between good and evil, supernatural forces at work as well as a dastardly villain determined to crush the young, innocent Isabella. It’s a big story with grand adventures and big characters but this penchant for the “larger than life” spoils the story for me. The characters end up pantomime-like, reminiscent of the commedia dell’arte or grand guignol and I didn’t really care about any of them although the twin sisters left me wanting more.

    If you enjoy far-fetched storylines and are willing to suspend your disbelief to Himilayan altitudes, then you might find this quite an entertaining  romp.  Also, if you are a bit of a twitcher and keen on birds of prey, the snippets about falconry which preface every  chapter will be of interest.  For me, though, I was slightly disappointed….but I live in hope for a return to Owl Killers form.

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