Book Review

Island of Gold

1454. A noble French falconer. A spirited merchant’s daughter. And a fateful decision that changes their destiny forever.

When Cédric is recruited by the Knights Hospitaller to the Greek island of Rhodes, his wife Sophie jumps at the chance to improve their fortunes. After a harrowing journey to Rhodes, Cédric plunges into the world of the knights—while Sophie is tempted by the endless riches that flow into the bustling harbor. But their dazzling new home has a dark side. 

Slaves toil endlessly to fortify the city walls, and rumors of a coming attack by the Ottoman Turks swirl in the streets. Desperate to gain favor with the knights and secure his position, Cédric navigates a treacherous web of shadowy alliances. Meanwhile, Sophie secretly engineers a bold plan to keep their children safe. As the trust between them frays, enemies close in—and when disaster strikes the island, the dangers of their new world become terrifyingly real. 

With this richly-told story of adventure, treachery, and the redeeming power of love, Amy Maroney brings a mesmerizing and forgotten world to vivid life.

Amy Maroney is a master of rich, vivid, and engrossingly detailed settings. There is no denying that she dives into research before writing, because the cultural and social elements of her books are always woven into the narratives of her stories seamlessly, as if she’s traveled back in time to visit, has walked the very streets she writes about before putting pen to paper.

When I first read Amy’s Miramonde series, I was immediately mesmerized by her ability to describe even the most minute details while not losing the flow of the story. Mira, one of her main characters, is an artist, and Amy somehow managed to describe the process the 16th century painter used to mix paints all the while not disengaging the reader or making them feel like school children who’d just been taught a lesson. Amy’s lush descriptions of the everyday actions of her characters always deepen her books, and I know that when I pick up an Amy Maroney book, I’ll learn something new. Whether it’s a geographic location I’m not familiar with, or the details of the day-to-day lives of the merchants and craftsmen who lived in that place, there is always something surprising in her books.

Island of Gold is no exception.

The beginning of the story lulls one into thinking these characters may have an easy go of things. Their lives are prosperous, and every sign indicates they can expect things to continue this way as they make each life decision. But I’ll give you fair warning: they do not. I won’t discuss the plot (because why else read the book?), but I will say the plot picks up its pace steadily, reaching a fever-pitch near the end. And it’s nicely set up for more books to come.

But I’ll be honest — what captured me most (as with her other books), is not the original and compelling story, but her mastery of place and setting. Once again, she has effortlessly created realistic and fascinating cultures and cities, characters and moods. I said earlier that I always learn something new when I read Amy’s books, and this one did not disappoint.

For example, I know a little bit about medieval falconry, but it’s mostly a surface knowledge dotted with some familiarity of terminology. However, her use of Cédric’s expertise with falcons makes it seem as if Amy herself has pursued the mastery of caring for the magnificent birds, has planned hunting expeditions, and has gone out to personally find and procure new birds from the wild. I had vivid images in my mind of Cédric as he cared for sick birds, fed them bits of meat, inspected their perches and cages. I felt right there, part of his life.

With no less skill, Amy draws readers along as her characters explore their new home on Rhodes, an island filled with bright sun, dusty heat, exotic trades, and colorful diversity of both culture and philosophies. You might need a cool drink at hand to quench your thirst.

And when the bright side of Rhodes darkens for Cédric and Sophie, strap on your dagger and sword. Learn to survive or else reap the consequences.

Island of Gold is an armchair traveler’s transportation to 15th century France and Greece. If you’ve missed traveling in the last year, this book is your ticket. No passport required.

You can purchase Island of Gold here.

About Amy Maroney:

Amy Maroney lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, and spent many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction before turning her hand to historical fiction. When she’s not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, dancing, traveling, and reading. Amy is the author of the Miramonde Series, a trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail.


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