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The Falcons of Fire and Ice

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  637 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
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 me
ebook, 496 pages
Published August 16th 2012 by Michael Joseph (first published August 1st 2012)
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Jul 10, 2012 Teresa rated it liked it
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
I saw a copy of this in a bookshop a couple of days ago, so I presume it's safe to post my review of it here at last, although I read an advance copy back in April! Being the fool that I am, I never got round to writing a review of it at the time, which means I am now left with only vague recollections of what it was actually about and what I particularly liked/disliked. My notes from then (I was on holiday) have this to contribute:

Very good but not up to the standard of the last book. Just as e
I didn't like this as much as Karen Maitland's other work. Maybe because I'm getting used to her style, or because this one had too long to build up in my mind -- maybe because it seemed to be over too fast, and I didn't really like the characters. Isabela, yes, but Ricardo, ugh, and somehow the whole of it didn't have the same dark urgency to it as the other books.

Perhaps even because Iceland is one of my Things and I wasn't so sure about the depth of Maitland's research here. It's not my perio
Kristin Gleeson
Oct 29, 2012 Kristin Gleeson rated it it was amazing
Set in 16th century Spain and Iceland the novel follows the fortunes of the rogue and con man Ricardo and the Marrano (Jewish convert) Isabella. On Iceland we also follow one of a pair of twins, held captive for years in a warm spring cave. Isabella is desperate to travel to Iceland to capture two falcons needed to save her father from the his imprisonment and certain death after he was falsely accused of killing the king's falcons. The Inquisition who has identified Isabella and her father as J ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have found that, when I want to travel back to the dark ages, Karen Maitland is a wonderful guide. She has so clearly studied the period, she so clearly loves the period, and she conveys all of that in wonderfully imagined and told stories.

This one pulled me in straight away, with high drama.

In Iceland an expectant mother found herself, and her unborn children, cursed when her husband killed the last white falcons on their mountain, breaking an oath and breaking old customs for financial gain.
Feb 15, 2014 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2014
The young king of Portugal's gyrfalcons have been killed, and chief suspect if the falconer. He is held captive, and his daughter, Isabela is charged with getting two more from Iceland, or her father dies.

She sets off on a voyage to get them, little knowing that other passengers on the boat are set on her not achieving her goal. She is almost left behind when the ship has to shelter in a storm, and uncovering an object, before resuming her journey. On reaching Iceland she is informed that she ha
Jun 27, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Maya Panika
Nov 14, 2012 Maya Panika rated it really liked it
Set in the sixteenth century amidst the horrors of religious persecution and ‘holy’ wars of all stamps, Karen Maitland's tale traverses the Atlantic, from Portugal under the Inquisition, to Iceland under the heel of the Lutheran Danes.

It opens with a lot of unconnected storylines that eventually come together; a lot of characters too, many with names that I found difficult to remember. I did lose track a bit at first, but not too radically and as the individual threads begin to draw together, an
Jill Heather
Sep 09, 2012 Jill Heather rated it really liked it
Karen Maitland writes what I will call medieval horror/thriller, which is a weird, weird genre. Superstition is taken very seriously: it's all real, and religion is in some respects a response to the demons etc. Her books are creepy, though not gory or particularly explicit.

This one is set during the inquisition in Portugal. At the same time, in Iceland, the Lutherans are off trying to kill the Catholics. It's a fascinating other side which I had never heard of before now. (I am suddenly interes
Anthony Burt
Sep 12, 2014 Anthony Burt rated it it was ok
I love Karen Maitland's historical thriller novels, but this one was nowhere near as good as her others, in my opinion. About a girl called Isabela who has to go on a journey to find two white falcons (in order to save her father's life from the Spanish Inquisition, who want to kill him because of being falsely accused of killing the King's falcons), there is a lot of fantastically detailed Icelandic and Portugese religious history in this book, but there was just something very tenuous and empt ...more
Patrick Neylan
Some reviewers have complained that this book is no different from Maitland's earlier books. That's a shame if true, but I've never read any of her other books so I can only judge The Falcons of Fire & Ice on its own merits. And those merits are considerable.

The ice is Iceland; the fire is the fire of the Portuguese Inquisition in the mid-16th Century. The daughter of a Portuguese falconer is forced to travel north to capture two falcons to save her father from the flames, while a charming
Steve Rippington
Jan 21, 2013 Steve Rippington rated it really liked it
It's hard to know what to label this; it's part medieval mystery, horror story, and thriller. Karen Maitland has a knack for atmospheric writing. I've read a few of her books now, and every time I feel like I've been transported into a world that's part historical, part magical invention. The superstitions of the time are consistently presented as they would have appeared to the people of the time, in a way that blurs the distinction of fiction and fact.

The Falcons of Fire and Ice follows the st
Elizabeth Moffat
Apr 27, 2013 Elizabeth Moffat rated it really liked it
I'm a big fan of Karen Maitland, and I urge anyone new to this author to read her previous works. The Falcons of Fire and Ice is based in two countries, Portugal and Iceland and each chapter is narrated by a different character. There is Isabela, a young girl forced to travel to Iceland to find a pair of rare falcons thus freeing her father from imprisonment and likely death. Our second narrator is Ricardo who is a bit of a "rogue" and is employed by the Inquisitors to "get rid" of Isabela befor ...more
Oct 06, 2012 Wolf rated it it was ok
Karen Maitland's latest novel is a disappointment. It fails to fulfil the promise that her first book (Company of Liars) showed or even the promise of that the backcover blurb suggests.

Please be warned that some SPOILERS are discussed below.

Set in sixteenth century Portugal and Iceland it promises a potent brew - the Inquisition and religious persecution, surviving pagan beliefs and the almost legendary Icelandic gryfalcon. Anyone who has visited both Iceland and Lisbon and Sintra in Portugal wi
Georgina Newcomb
Apr 19, 2013 Georgina Newcomb rated it liked it
‘The Falcons of Fire and Ice’ is the first Karen Maitland book that I have read. I read the back page, found it intriguing and turned to the first page. This is the test I do you see, wherever I am at a bookstore or a supermarket, this is how I choose whether I will buy the book or not. The author has two chances; the synopsis and the first page. If the synopsis tells me a story that I know I will like, then I will try the first page. The first page is where I look at the style of writing, I usu ...more
Squiff Drake
Jan 07, 2013 Squiff Drake rated it really liked it
Set in the Portugal and Iceland in the 16th century while the Inquisition rages in Portugal and the Danes bring Lutheranism to Iceland. Isabela the daughter of the Falconer to Portugals young King sees her father arrested for killing the royal white falcons. Her father and family will be killed if the falcons are not replaced. Isabela set off for the far Northern lands where the falcons are found in the hope of securing her father freedom but the church has its reasons for wanting her to fail. T ...more
Aug 16, 2013 Lauren rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
I liked this better than Company of Liars, which I'm not sure if I reviewed on here or if it was before Goodreads ... if it was on here (I am too lazy to check), then I probably ended up giving that one a higher rating for whatever reason. Anyway, point being, The Falcons is a better book no matter how my ratings may conflict.

However, it's not a great book. It's a good summer read for someone who is OK with light fantasy but would prefer the trappings of the normal world. I suppose my main probl
Jul 25, 2014 Ruth rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf, history
Oh dear! I have liked Ms Maitland's previous works although the last one I read was not as good as the first two. This one missed the mark for me completely. Why use one sentence to describe something when fifteen will do the same? I only liked one of the characters. It may have been the narrator's fault as I continually felt as if I was on the set of "'ello 'ello". The book defeated me totally. Sadly, unable to recommend to the normal crew.
Mar 28, 2014 Carla rated it really liked it
This was my first Maitland book, and I was really pleased with the introduction. This story creatively blends historical fact and fantasy with a touch of supernatural thrill thrown in for good measure. I like how the author split the story between three unique voices, and her narrative drawing disparate characters together across oceans was creatively done. Although I felt that the story stumbled a bit upon arrival in Iceland, the pace quickly picked back up once the quest was firmly established ...more
Aug 04, 2013 Mieke rated it really liked it
A fascinating topic that I haven't encountered before (the Inquisition in Portugal) or really had reason to think about coupled with a setting I have seldom visited (medieval Iceland) made for a very interesting book.

That said, as it was very unfamiliar, I struggled a bit to picture the setting and circumstances (although this is hardly the fault of the author).

I enjoyed this better than The Gallows Curse, partly because it was so interesting, but still find it lacking the intensity and simple G
Aug 24, 2012 Jae rated it liked it
Shelves: magical-realism
Initially I was very much enjoying this story - similar to 'Company Of Liars' in that it describes a group of travellers, each of whom is not quite what they seem. Each chapter is dedicated to one of the travellers, and in between chapters are short legends of falconry, collected from across the world. However, the story goes completely off the rails, with ridiculously unbelievable happenings - and I'm not talking about the magical aspect here, which I enjoyed, but characters behaving like actor ...more
A decent beach or travel read. The story moves along well and it is easy to empathise with the characters even if some of them are rather unpleasant.

The information, at the beginning of each chapter, on falcons and falconry is informative but bizarre as it is not necessary for the story. That said the story revolves around the fact that the heroine is the daughter of a falconer and on a quest to find rare falcons so I suppose it is in there for interest.

The period detail is well researched and
Mar 31, 2014 Astrid rated it really liked it
This was different from the other Karen Maitland books I have read, but I really liked it. Just as dark as the others, with a little twist towards the end I did not even consider, so it was a surprise. Much more openly paranormal and supernatural, with a different time period, this time 1564 Portugal and Iceland. Most of the action takes place in Iceland and the description of the barren landscape is wonderful (though I remember it a lot greener than described here). This book actually seems to ...more
Heather Burke
Feb 08, 2014 Heather Burke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ending of this book really disappointed me. Not because it wasn't done well....because I wanted it to be different!!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this had a little bit of everything: mystery, adventure, romance, multiple villains, secrets and suspense. It was an interesting mix of religion during the middles ages (Inquisition) and mystical "old ways" and magic.
I learned a little bit about Portugal and a lot about Iceland :)
It did drag a bit in a few places which is why I gave it
Feb 01, 2015 Sadaf rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book. I didn't realize it but a lot of books I read lately were either about the present or very ancient past. However, the dark ages and the Inquisition are topics I have not touched too much.

Looking back from our own times to those past, we invariably simplify the lives of the people before. We think they might actually have believed a lot of the philosophy around religion and would structure their lives around being good or bad morally.

But with works like these
Mar 09, 2013 Susan rated it liked it
The exposition was too long for me, but there were a few Maitland surprises sprinkled in the latter part of the novel. I think this is my least favorite Maitland novel, but I enjoyed the Iceland part of the book. I had to change planes in Reykjavik going to and from Europe in 2011. Despite having only been in the airport, the plane ride over Iceland gave a breathtaking view of the volcanic landscape, so it was easy to picture the setting.
Kelly Burns
May 17, 2016 Kelly Burns rated it really liked it
I had read one other Karen Maitland book, 'The Vanishing Witch' and so I decided to try another. I have to say historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and as a Historian myself, I pay particular interest to the details. I knew little about the period or the place if I'm honest, with only a smattering of knowledge regarding the auto de fe and conversos. I found the book beautifully interwove the fear and superstition of the time with a touch of the fantastical. OK so I don't believe in g ...more
Sep 05, 2012 Jackie rated it really liked it
I love this author and find all her books entertaining. Her stories bring an unknown age alive with mystery, grit, often mixed with violence and gore with a healthy dose of supertition and the supernatural.

Having said that, I wasn't as entralled with this book as I was with her previous three. I think thats because I didn't really like any of the characters. Hence four stars instead of the usual five she gets from me.
Kristen McDermott
An intriguing mix of falconry and Icelandic folklore that suffers from trying to hang too much plot on characters that aren't quite well developed enough to make us want to endure all the hardships with them. I'm not personally bothered by the multiple first-persons POVs, but in this case, Maitland's use of the device contributes to the feeling that the novel is both too long and too short.
Jul 11, 2014 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-edition
Karen Maitand is pure GENIUS when it comes to marrying real history with folklore. This is an amazing tale. I could not put this down. It was a literal painting that I could not stop staring at. It is also a cautionary tale about how out of control religious zealots can be and how, sadly, history repeats itself over and over again and again and again.
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Karen Maitland has recently moved to the wonderful county of Devon and has a doctorate in psycholinguists. She is fascinated by the myth and magic of the Middle Ages, which she draws on for her novels. She experienced the medieval lifestyle for real, when she worked for eighteen months in a rural village in Nigeria, living without electricity, plumbing or sanitation.

Her first medieval thriller wa
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