A family torn apart by conflict.
An uprising of deadly magnitude.
A nation altered forever.
Inspired by actual events, Siciliana is the harrowing tale of a young woman’s courage in the face of unthinkable turmoil.
In 1282 AD, the Kingdom of Sicily is under the rule of a tyrannical French king and subject to his brutal Angevin army. Daily acts of violence and persecution are commonplace in a once prosperous realm.
For twenty-year-old Aetna Vespiri, daughter of a revered Sicilian knight, survival has become second nature. As a child, she witnessed the destruction of her family’s vineyard by Angevin soldiers and spent the next decade learning the tenets of stiletto blade combat.
Years later in Palermo, as the evening bells toll for Vespers, Aetna fends off a nefarious sergeant and sparks an uprising against the Angevin occupation. Now, standing at the forefront of an accelerating people’s rebellion, Aetna finds herself fighting not only for a nation she believes in, but also for the meaning of family. Here, in her darkest hour, this dauntless Sicilian woman steps out of obscurity and into the pages of history.
The legend of Siciliana is born.
Set amidst bustling Arab markets and brooding Norman fortresses, Siciliana will envelop readers in the sights, sounds, and dangers lurking around every corner of medieval Sicily.
I’m the first-generation son of a Sicilian immigrant family.
Growing up, if I mentioned Sicily or my Sicilian heritage to anyone unfamiliar with its past or culture, the typical response included some use of the notorious M word. “Oh, like the Mafia?” Mention Sicily in literature or film, and one might imagine an aging don stroking a white cat or a low-level mobster running a casino outfit.
In all fairness, the general public can’t be faulted for making these connections. More often than not, Sicilians are portrayed and perceived in popular culture in a negative context—hustlers, gangsters, grifters.
My Sicilian heritage deserves better.
As a lifelong aficionado of fiction and cinema, I believe in the transformative power of storytelling and determined that the only way to confront and change these negative perceptions was to change the narrative.
This would become my knight’s quest.
My hero’s journey.
In writing this novel, I set out to paint a portrait of a tempestuous time when the island of Sicily was still considered its own kingdom. Originally known as the Kingdom of Trinacria, Sicily was once a grandiose and evocative realm of forbidden knights, forgotten fortresses, and fallen kings.
Readers of Siciliana will discover a moment in history that is not particularly well known. The period is focused on a brief era in thirteenth-century Sicily when a people’s revolt against the island’s French occupation single-handedly sparked a world war and forever altered the face of the Mediterranean as we know it. The uprising was called the Sicilian Vespers. It was a violent, harrowing, world-shaping event that delivered an oppressed people from the scourge of tyranny and fundamentally forged the identity of a Sicilian nation.
By opening a window into this dramatic era, I hope to shine a new light on Sicily’s engrossing past and resilient culture, and celebrate my Sicilian heritage in a way that I wanted to see in popular culture growing up.
Perhaps one day, when a Sicilian daughter or Sicilian son tells someone about their family’s heritage, the response they receive will not be “Oh, like the Mafia?” but rather “Oh, like Siciliana!”
On March 30, 1282, as the bells of Palermo tolled for Vespers, a Sicilian woman crying “Death to the Angevins!” led a people’s uprising against the French garrison occupying the city. Within six weeks, Sicilian rebels slayed more than three thousand Angevin soldiers across the island. The turbulent events of 1282 became known as the Sicilian Vespers.
A stiletto is a long, razor-sharp blade with an ornamental hilt and cross-guard. The Sicilians were deadly with the stiletto blade—and their menacing flair gained notoriety throughout Europe—coining the phrase, “Only saints and Sicilians dare clash with the devil.” A master of the stiletto was called a cavaleri, a Sicilian knight.
The Knights of the Teutonic Order, or Ordu Teutoni, was founded in 1190 during the Third Crusade. The Teutonic Order was charged with protecting the pilgrim path to the Holy Land and providing care for crusaders who had fallen ill. A decade later, the Teutoni Knights became a powerful military force throughout the Mediterranean. The order’s fealty was toward the great dynasty of Sicilian kings. The Teutonic Order exists today as a chivalric sect of the Catholic Church.
All named locations, architecture, and historical symbols depicted in this novel are real, and their remnants can still be seen today.