Siciliana: A Novel

Written by Carlo Treviso
Review by Anna Belfrage

In 1282, the Sicilian people rose in rebellion against their oppressive Angevin ruler. The Sicilians felt 16 years of Charles d’Anjou was enough. Against this dramatic backdrop, Treviso has spun a fast-paced story with multiple twists and two engaging protagonists—so engaging, in fact, that this reader persevered to the end, despite overwrought prose.

Excessively detailed descriptions, misused adverbs, confusing wording and a constant head-hopping are severe irritations. Somewhat more difficult to overcome are the anachronisms. Treviso’s Sicilians dine regularly on tomatoes and red peppers as well as biting into prickly pears. None of these foodstuffs were available to 13th-century Europeans. Neither were there cougars in Sicily, and French as well as Sicilian medieval soldiers did not use rapiers—a 16th-century invention—or claymores (the latter being a Scottish two-handed sword). Likewise, the stiletto plays a central role in Siciliana, this despite first being mentioned in the 15th century. It may very well be that there was an earlier version of a stiletto in Sicily, but no matter how skilled the wielder, it would be hard to use a short, if sharp, stiletto to ward off the powerful swings of the substantially longer sword.

Finally, Treviso’s novel presents Conradin Hohenstaufen as some sort of inspirational leader for the Sicilian people. Seeing as this young man never ruled Sicily and was (sadly) executed at the tender age of sixteen by Charles d’Anjou, he would not have left much impression on the Sicilians, who would have been more likely to talk of King Manfred, Conradin’s uncle, who died in battle in 1266.

For those readers who enjoy a good yarn and are not unduly bothered by historical inaccuracies, Siciliana is an entertaining read—but I would recommend a thorough edit.