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I was disappointed with this novel. I've read and loved several other books by Sarah Dunant, but this one didn't live up to the others. My feeling is that she got so involved with her research and wanting to retell the historical events from the point of view she had adopted, that she somehow forgot to create credible and fully formed characters. In wanting to present a more "balanced" view of the Borgias, who, based on recent historical research, appear not to have been the monsters they've been made out to be—indeed, the current thinking is they behaved in a way congruent with the times they lived in—the story seemed to me to lack the excitement and spice one would have expected from the title. Yes, there is murder and plenty of blood is spilled, but somehow all this seems to be at a remove, as seen from the eyes of a historian rather than a talented fiction writer. While her other books have all carried me away and made me want to follow the flow of her stories and live with the characters for a while, this one felt stiff and formulaic and frankly, rather boring in the end. I'm still giving it a decent rating because I'm a great lover of historical fiction and Dunant certainly did her homework in that sense, but this is not the book I would recommend to someone new to her writing.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Sarah Dunant made the right choice to take a step back from a first person POV in this book and use a more distant, almost impartial narration. It does make the story less engaging and a bit harder to follow or immerse oneself in, but it allows the reader to have a bit more sympathy for this infamous family and their intrigues. It seemed that great care was taken to show the Borgias as they might have been and not fall victim as so many other writers have done and dive right into scandal and incest. The scandal and intrigues are there (less so the incest) but the reader is invited to take a step back and look at it from a point of view other than an excitable "Look what they did!"
Overall a good piece of historical fiction.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful