From historians to rock stars, authors to swordsmen, here's what some remarkable people are saying about Marthese Fenech's novels
"Marthese Fenech plunges you into her slice of history so deftly that you do not just read it, you live it."
Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, award winning historical author of Don’t Tell the Nazis and Stolen Girl
"Falcon’s Shadow begins with a punch that leaves you breathless.
As with its predecessor, Falcon’s Shadow is clearly painstakingly researched. Every little detail feels authentic and Fenech does not shy away from the gory details of life before sanitation.
Part of what makes it feel so real is the dialogue. Unlike a lot of historical fiction that employs a formal speech pattern to suggest antiquity, this trilogy allows its characters to talk in a way that balances anachronism with realism. It’s extremely compelling.
Fenech excels at a number of different narrative facets, but for me, I was particularly engrossed by three aspects. The first is her characters: the good, bad, and morally grey are all equally interesting. The second is the engrossing battle scenes. The third is the deep critique of systematic power structures and how they affect even those who try to distance themselves.
If you enjoy impressively researched history, realistic characters for whom you root and despair, and a story that dries out your eyes from compulsive reading, get Falcon’s Shadow."
Tina S Beier, author of What Branches Grow
"From the desperation of the slave market to the horrors of the battlefield, Falcon's Shadow is the evocative story of one family who is torn apart by war, ambition and an appalling act of revenge.
What a story! Falcon's Shadow is an emotional, tear-jerkingly brilliant novel that left me gasping for breath and begging for more. This is the kind of book that demands your attention from the opening sentence until the last full stop. It is a story of terrible suffering, but it is also one of desperate hope.
There are so many wonderful characters in this novel, and each has a story to tell. The numerous voices employed in telling this tale gave the narrative a richness that would have been impossible to obtain through a single perspective. And because the protagonists are so likeable and their stories are so realistically narrated, I enjoyed reading about them all.
Fenech has captured the very essences of this era. The hours of research that have so painstakingly gone into this book has to be commended. This novel is what Historical Fiction is all about. It is, in all ways, an absolute success.
Falcon's Shadow is a beautifully compelling, and emotional read.
I Highly Recommend."
Read the full review on Mary Anne Yarde's Blog
Mary Anne Yarde - The Coffee Pot Book Club
Eight Pointed Cross
"Crystal-clear descriptive language … Ms Fenech has recreated the compelling world of the Montesa family of Malta and the Knights of St. John as though she time-travelled back to the sixteenth century to do her research. An impressive debut!"
Karen Connelly, Governor General’s Literary Award recipient and author of Burmese Lessons
"Over the decades I have read many novels with Malta as their setting. Eight Pointed Cross is the first one I have found to be accurate and factual in all of its cultural and historical details, while at the same time, having a thrilling and exciting plot depicted from both sides of the warring factions. Marthese Fenech is phenomenal!"
Knight Commander Richard S. Cumbo, Order of St. John, and Curator of the Maltese-Canadian Museum in Toronto
"Fenech’s epic tapestry of a novel encompasses all the sights, sounds, and smells of the 16th-century Mediterranean: tender domestic scenes and blood-drenched battles, privilege and squalor. I believed every minute of it."
Carol Rasmussen, science writer at NASA and former book review editor at Library Journal
"WOW! What a fantastic read! Great characters. Great imagery. Great story! I must admit, I was somewhat intimidated by its size upon receipt of the book, but the story takes you away—exactly as a great book should. When one's dream is fueled by the passion to make it become a reality, Ms Fenech's result here is nothing short of an amazing first effort. Congratulations on realizing your dream. I can't wait for the sequel!"
Rob Affuso, Soulsystem president, band leader, and drummer, former Skid Row drummer
"Marthese Fenech’s talent as a storyteller will not let you escape this enchanting tale, painfully detailed and a must-read for history lovers. You will fall in love with the characters and never forget them."
Claire Agius Ordway, producer and host of Dak li Jghodd, Ilsien in-nisa, and Travel and Taste
"Eight Pointed Cross was everything a fan of historical fiction could hope for. It took a period of history I was relatively familiar with (the wars with the Habsburgs and the Ottomans) and shone a fresh light on it with a new perspective. We open the story in a peaceful town on the island of Malta. You're immersed in the descriptions of beeswax candles burning in the dark, and the scent they give off. The soft discussions between a father and his children, then you're yanked from the peaceful calm by a band of seaborne reavers come to take slaves! It's fantastic!
Usually, any story that involves the holy orders of the medieval period dotes on them as unwavering protectors of all that is right in the world, but Eight Pointed Cross isn't that type of book. It tells a story about the people whose lives are uprooted by the Knights of St John, and how the upper classes' actions drastically affect the lives of those who live beneath them. You really begin to gain respect for anyone who is forced to live their lives by the whims and wants of those born into wealth and decadence.
But my favourite aspect was the duality the story has. It avoids the colonial tropes one normally finds in stories like these that paint the Ottomans as uncivilized brutes and savages. You actually follow the conflict from the other side through the eyes of a young boy in Istanbul, who is tormented daily by his villainous half-brother and tyrant of a father. You feel for him, you want him to succeed. And you're left confused about who to cheer for because there are great people on both sides, and isn't that the BEST kind of story?"
"Fearless" Fred Kennedy, Toronto radio personality on Q107 and host of the Issue Zero podcast
"Many historical sagas have been published, but few convey the scale, complexity, and attention to historical detail of Eight Pointed Cross. Marthese Fenech creates intricate plots and multi-dimensional characters, whom she moves from one perilous situation to another, keeping readers avidly turning the pages. I found myself utterly immersed, a result of the stylistic traps awaiting the reader around every treacherous corner and the unabashed pathos of the tragedy subsumed in the plot. Ms Fenech must have been born with her narrative genetics in perfect order. I truly hope her relentless talent is acknowledged where it should be. Managing to weave a gripping storyline from the ordinary misadventures of love, envy, hate, cowardice and violence underscores her skills better than had she opted for a big story against an epic background."
Giovanni Bonello, historian, author, and former Judge of the European Courts of Human Rights
"Eight Pointed Cross has all the ingredients that I consider important in a novel: a gripping plot, engaging, believable characters, stunning description, violence, love, sex, remarkable psychological insight, historical detail. The first English literary critic, Sir Phillip Sidney, wrote that the purpose of literature was to teach and to delight. I learned much from Eight Pointed Cross. And the internal struggles of characters such as Augustine and Franco lend depth and substance to the characterization. A more recent literary giant, William Faulkner, in his speech upon receiving the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950, opined that the only thing worth writing about is the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself. Ms Fenech has passed both tests with flying colours."
John Heighton, reader for the Porcupine's Quill
"I read Eight Pointed Cross twice. On my first read, the story fascinated me so much I could not put the book down. A page-turner that engaged me so completely I only realised it was 637 pages long when I arrived at the last page. I took it up a second time a few years later, but this time, to savour the three-dimensional characters Ms Fenech created so deftly. Each distinct personality drew me into sixteenth-century Malta—a time when simply staying alive was a feat. I love this book also for the depth of research demonstrated by so young a writer. And the beautiful language reflects her love for her roots. Reading Ms Fenech’s work has been a privilege I wish to renew once I get the sequel in my hands."
Charles Micallef St John, author of Suwed ulied il-lejl
“Novels with such sound historical background have inspired so many historians-to-be, myself included. Ms Fenech's Eight Pointed Cross has earned its place among great novels like the Sword and the Scimitar and the Religion. Historical accuracy and dramatic detail like hers puts you in the midst of the action like no other source can!”
Franco Davies, historian, expert in Hospitaller weaponry, swordsman, Malta Historical Fencing Association Secretary, and former Deputy Mayor of Floriana
"Fenech describes the Maltese Islands' events and history as if she witnessed them firsthand. Reading her books is a must!"
John Grima, Actor
"With a lyrical narrative that is as rich in historical detail as it is in story and a prose that is poetically pleasing to the ear, Eight Pointed Cross by Marthese Fenech is the tautly gripping account of the clash of two great empires.
Eight Pointed Cross is astoundingly ambitious, but it is in all ways an absolute triumph. Fenech has penned not only a dazzling account of the Knights Hospitaller and what life was like in Malta during this time but also what it was like to grow up in Istanbul.
And by writing this book in third person subjective, Fenech has assured that Eight Pointed Cross will definitely stand out in a crowded bookcase."
Read the full review on Mary Anne Yarde's Blog.
Mary Anne Yarde - The Coffee Pot Book Club.
"It is a rare occasion when readers become so enthralled in a book that they cannot put it down, that they desperately thirst for a sequel. Eight Pointed Cross by Marthese Fenech became the focus of that occasion for me, and I am thrilled to have found such an addicting piece of historical fiction.
Eight Pointed Cross is a book filled with poignant and witty dialogue, and the characters all have such distinct, memorable personalities that it becomes shockingly easy to resonate with them. The interactions and romances between characters are beautifully handled and realistic.
In addition to housing wonderfully complete characters, the descriptive and fast-paced style of Eight Pointed Cross is fashioned in such a way to keep a reader interested all the way through. There is never any doubt about where the characters might be. The author always provides a complete sense of setting, involving all five of the senses when possible.
The author has done extensive research on the focus of her novel, as this book features an uncommonly complete representation of medieval lands. The story can explore different cultures and social class systems while still holding tight to the reader's interest.
I am thrilled to give Eight Pointed Cross a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. The plot is exceptional, seamlessly weaving in surprises, and it is filled with characters that a reader can easily relate to."
Check out the full review on the Online Book Club
Amy Marie - The Online Book Club
"A Deliciously Ambitious History Saga! Fenech laces her extensive research into a compelling history brought to life because of her amazing characters and their interactions. I enjoyed listening to the comprehensive descriptions, the richness of history, extensive character development, and personalization of this historical saga. I highly recommend it for those who enjoy listening to a story with unfiltered realism. 5 Star Rating!"
Click here for the full review