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The Falcons of Fire and Ice,
This review is from: The Falcons of Fire and Ice (Hardcover)
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Having loved all of Karen Maitland's previous books Company of Liars, The Owl Killers and The Gallows Curse, I was delighted to read her latest offering. "The Falcons of Fire and Ice" is set in Portugal, 1539, when the country is in the icy grip of the Inquisition. Isabela is the daughter of the Royal Falconer and King Sebastian loves both falcons and the company of the gentle man who tends them; but when tragedy strikes the King is able to do little to protect him, as he is just a child and his great-uncle is both Regent and the former Grand Inquisitor. When Isabela's father is arrested on false charges her only chance of obtaining his release is to bring back two extremely rare white falcons from Iceland within a year and a day.
Isabela is a brave and resourceful young girl who immediately sets out on a quest that seems almost impossible, despite her life being turned upside down. As well as the quest itself, there are those who wish to see her fail and others who intend to make sure that she does not complete the task. Isabela's fate is entwined with Ricardo, a likeable adventurer, and a mysterious woman chained in a cave whose sister has been possessed. Like Karen Maitland's previous novels, this contains more than a hint of magic and the supernatural. She manages to portray both the fear of the Inquisition at that time, when persecution, informers and fear of arrest overshadowed the country and the untamed beauty of Iceland, with menacing, volcanic mountains and marshy land ready to pull you into the depths. The two countries seem outwardly very different, yet both contain religious intolerance and superstitions, as well as a dread of those who are different.
In some ways, Falcons reminded me most of "Company of Liars" as Isabela travels with companions, unsure of which are her enemies and suspicious of everyone. It has the same sense of dark menace and tension, excellent characters and wonderful, evocative locations. I am sure all fans of Karen Maitland's books will love this as much as I did. This is brilliant historical fiction, with a twist of magic that gives it the authors own particular flavour. A real winner and highly recommended.