On the evening of Easter Monday in 1282, worshippers hold vigil at the Church of the Holy Spirit outside Palermo. Yet despite the holy occasion, the Sicilian people are feeling far from peaceful. They are about to erupt like Mount Etna in what will take shape into a broader Mediterranean conflict known as the War of the Sicilian Vespers.

This six-week insurrection against the oppressive rule of French King Charles I leaves thousands dead in a desperate conflict for survival, independence and the preservation of the fiery Sicilian spirit.

Carlo Treviso’s debut novel Siciliana (Trevixo Originale Books) takes that historic event and infuses it with heroic characters of near-mythic proportions in a book that educates as much as it entertains. He does so in high, swashbuckling style through the eyes of one fictional Sicilian family, the Vespiri’s.

TRAUMATIC EVENTS TRANSFORM A YOUNG HEROINE

Thirteen years before that fateful Easter night, Treviso sows the seeds of that uprising with the introduction of Don Vittorio Vespiri, a prominent winemaker and vineyard owner. Revered throughout the region as a cavaleri — a Sicilian knight who is a master of the stiletto (a type of sword), Vespiri teaches his children the code of the cavaleri and instills in them the love of cosca, or family, as he struggles with nightmares of the brutal Angevin occupation.

In Aetna, his seven-year-old daughter, he senses a kindred spirit and reveals to her his golden pendant, the Gorgoneion Trinacria, emblazoned with the face of Medusa, surrounded by three legs bent at the knee. A symbol of protection, he tells her, from a woman who was first a victim, then a misunderstood monster, but now a mythical protector of Sicily.

Aetna vows early on to be a great protector herself one day, which is her fate when an injured knight from the Ordu Teutoni, the Teutonic Order, seeks refuge at the Vespiri farmhouse, setting in motion a chain of events years in the making. The Teutoni knights are known throughout Sicily as the protectors of the Regno, the old kingdom, and therefore a threat to the foreign Angevin military and political establishment. Harboring the fugitive brings Angevin wrath, led by the cruel General Guy de Rochefort, to Vespiri’s doorstep. Aetna must run for her life, the Medusa pendant clenched in her fist. It’s this traumatic event that transforms Aetna into a strong, fearless woman who will become the mouthpiece for the revolution, catalyzing a movement that inspires the Sicilian people to revolt against the Angevin regime at all costs.

A CAPTIVATING TALE OF HEROISM AND AN ODE TO SICILIAN HISTORY

The tumult of battle sequences and rousing calls to rebellamentu are all captured in Treviso’s cinematic eye, as are the numerous Greek ruins, Arab fortresses and Norman churches the armies pass through, delineated with great care to historical detail — the book even includes line art to immerse the reader in the surroundings more fully.

Reminiscent of a mythic hero, Aetna becomes an idealized warrior who inflames patriotism around her and embodies the revolution. Her allies flock to her standard in their single-minded mission to overthrow Re Carlu (King Charles), with a few well-timed twists adding texture to their development. Like in Aetna’s character, we’re able to witness her allies in their ideal forms, able to achieve the greatest of accomplishments, even the winning of Sicily.

Treviso, the son of a Sicilian immigrant, brings years of commercial broadcast experience and a passion for cinema to tell a tale he hopes will “shine a new light on Sicily’s engrossing past and resilient culture” and reveal this little-known event as one that “fundamentally forged the identity of a Sicilian nation.”

Siciliana is a historical thriller that delivers gore with gusto and a heroine who is more than any man can handle. Readers who enjoy stories like Sharon Kay Penman’s When Christ and His Saints Slept and Kate Mosse’s The Burning Chambers, filled with plenty of action and epic battles, will relish this tale and eagerly await a sequel. For a well-written and fun medieval yarn, check out Siciliana … pronto.

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Carlo Treviso grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in film directing. Traversing the worlds of Hollywood and advertising, Treviso has written and produced commercial broadcast campaigns for well-known brands all over the world. The son of a Sicilian immigrant, Treviso enjoys bringing his passion and appreciation for Sicily to his readers. He is a proud advocate and supporter of conservation organizations UNESCO, LIFE ConRaSi and World Wildlife Fund — all of which work to protect the beauty and grandeur of Sicily’s engrossing past, resilient culture and vibrant biodiversity. Treviso resides in Chicago, Illinois.