Book Review: The Falcons of Fire and Ice, by Karen Maitland

Karen Maitland’s The Falcons of Fire and Ice is historical supernatural horror, a genre mashup which I seem to be coming across more recently in my Year of Reading Women.

And I’m coming to rather like it.

Set in Portugal in the 16th century, The Falcons of Fire and Ice revolves around three narrators, the first of which is a young girl, Isabela, whose father, the Royal Falconer, has been charged with treason after the deaths of two of his charges, vanishingly rare gyrfalcons. The young King pleads for clemency, and the Inquisition grants it, at a price – Isabela must travel to Lutheran Iceland, and return with another pair of falcons.

After discovering that her parents are not ‘Old Christians’ but rather are marranos, or Jewish converts, and as such are seen as a threat to the Church, Isabela’s world is thrown into chaos, and her life is forfeit, not just in Portugal, but across Christendom. As she sets out on her quest to Iceland she is joined by Ricardo, a conman and rogue, who has also been offered a deal by the Inquisition – to see that Isabella meets with an unfortunate accident.

The third narrator is Eydis, an Icelander condemned to remain chained within an underground cave with her twin sister, as Icelandic beliefs say that twins, after reaching the age of seven, gain magical powers. After her Eydis’ sister dies, however, her body in possessed by a draugr, and in order to prevent the demon from remaining on the earth Isabela must be brought into its presence.

The Falcons of Fire and Ice is a great novel, and Karen Maitland intricately weaves the three narratives together. Replete with falconry terms and brief interludes detailing legends of falcons, you can tell that Karen has truly done her research on the period and the cultures of the Medieval era, and historical accuracy is something I absolutely love.

Adding it to the list of five star reviews. You should buy and read this novel!

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Falcons of Fire and Ice, by Karen Maitland

  1. Kelly says:

    Sounds good, thanks for the tip. Will put this on my must reads!

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