Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: Blood & Beauty

In Sarah Dunant's latest offering, she's giving us the Borgias in all their glory. Here is where I usually give you a synopsis of the book, but the Borgias's story is so well known it seems redundant. Here is the story of Rodrigo Borgia, better known as Pope Alexander VI and his children, Cesare, Lucrezia, Juan, and Jofre and their family's reign in Renaissance Italy.  

While Blood & Beauty doesn't offer new information that no one has ever heard before, it doesn't matter. Instead, Dunant gives us a story to sink into and immerse our lives into the Rome that was trenched in treachery, betrayal, and politics. 

Why do we keep coming back to the Borgias? They've had countless books, a show on premium television and even an appearance in a popular video game series. My answer? The Borgias were the soap opera family of their times. They were scandalous, daring and decadent. Pope Alexander was more politician than pontiff, more concerned with using his children to gain alliances with surrounding countries and city-states than with the spiritual well being of his people. Cesare, an unhappy cardinal turned soldier, is manipulative and just a little too attached to his younger sister, although the crime of incest doesn't actually occur. The only character you feel sorry for is Lucrezia. There is no indication of the poisoning calculator who makes appearances in previous incarnations of the Borgias story. She is a victim of her family's machinations. 

The storytelling was rich and the characters believable. Dunant gives her version of this infamous family with color and verve. Historical fiction the way I like it, with the historical individuals taking center stage. 

The Verdict

Bookshelf: You love the Borgias? The Italian Renassiance?  Scandal and intrigue? Read this book. 

*Review copy was rewarded through Early Reviewers program*

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