Medieval Historical Fiction Novel of the Week: The Falcon of Palermo

Falcon of Palermo - Maria Bordihn - Medieval History - Middle Ages History - Historical Fiction Novel - Frederick II BarbarossaThe Falcon of Palermo by Maria R. Bordihn

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Grove Press (February 8, 2006)
ISBN: 080214232X

Editorial Review from Publishers Weekly:

Bordihn’s scrupulously researched debut brims with drama, passion and personalities ranging from the scandalous to the sublime. After the untimely deaths of his parents (his father was the tyrannical German emperor Henry of Hohenstaufen), emperor-to-be Frederick II is on his own, mingling with street urchins in 13th-century Sicily’s Muslim quarter as his homeland is besieged by German warlords. When Pope Innocent sends Archbishop Berard to quell the chaos, the green-eyed boy-king and the avuncular bishop become fast friends. Surprisingly, German princes and the pope elect Frederick Holy Roman Emperor, but he’s not the malleable leader they were hoping for. Brilliant and headstrong, Frederick aspires to build an empire to equal Rome, even if it means defying the church (he was excommunicated twice). Frederick’s appetite for power is nearly rivaled by his lust for beautiful women (marriage doesn’t preclude him from bedding a bevy of fair-skinned lovelies). He also studies Roman history and astrology, writes poetry and excels at falconry. When, on his deathbed, Frederick laments his failures as a leader, lifelong confidante Berard reminds him of his triumphs: “You gave men a vision of enlightenment, justice and tolerance. You gave them hope.” Bordihn renders vivid descriptions of the medieval era (bejeweled costumes, bloody battles, the pomp of the royal court) in this engrossing account of a legendary ruler both revered and reviled. Agent, Rogers, Coleridge and White. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Review from Booklist:

This fascinating fictional account of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II is realistically detailed with all the pomp, pageantry, poverty, and pestilence of the Middle Ages. Born into uncertainty and upheaval, Frederick, the son of Henry Hohenstaufen, is orphaned and running wild in the Muslim quarter of Palermo at an early age. Taken under the wise and kindly wing of an archbishop sent by the pope to recover papal lands that had been stolen in a Sicily overrun by German invaders, Frederick begins the seminal tutelage that sets him on his remarkable journey toward greatness. Amazingly sympathetic to Arabic mores and culture, Frederick blends elements of East and West during his reign as king of Sicily. When Frederick is eventually elected Holy Roman Emperor, intrigue, power struggles, political machinations, and religious controversies run rampant as he struggles to maintain and extend control over a difficult empire. Bordihn artfully humanizes her larger than life subject in this remarkably intelligent and entertaining fictional biography. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

4 thoughts on “Medieval Historical Fiction Novel of the Week: The Falcon of Palermo

  • I read The Falcon of Palermo shortly after it first appeared in hardback. One can always tell a good book by the way it lingers in the memory, as this one has in mine. Medieval Sicily is exceptionally interesting, I think, to read about. It was so rare in the Middle Ages for people of different religions to live closely together in harmony, but it happened in Sicily. For people interested in more novels set in medieval Sicily, there’s a short article about them on my website at

  • Thanks Margaret for the link. Your site is great. I always tell people about it if they’re looking for historical fiction novels set in a certain time period.

  • This book sounds so good. I love Roman history! Thank you for telling me about it. I just found a great novel about the Civil War you might like. Its called Bedlam South by David R. Donaldson and Mark Grisham. It has an exiting plot and a surprise ending.

  • Kristen, you’re welcome. Sorry for my delayed reply. Ancient and medieval history are my favorite periods to study. I used to be into the Civil War more than I am now. Actually, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara was the first historical fiction novel I ever read. I have heard good things about Bedlam South. What’s the premise?

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