• Leonardo's Swans

  • By: Karen Essex
  • Narrated by: Elizabeth Sastre
  • Length: 5 hrs and 56 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 01-12-06
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars 3.3 (39 ratings)

Regular price: $20.97

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Publisher's Summary

Isabella d'Este, daughter of the Duke of Ferrara, born into privilege and the political and artistic turbulence of Renaissance Italy, is a stunning black-eyed blonde and a precocious lover and collector of art. Worldly and ambitious, she has never envied her less attractive sister, the spirited but naive Beatrice, until, by a quirk of fate, Beatrice is betrothed to the future Duke of Milan. Although he is more than twice their age, openly lives with his mistress, and is reputedly trying to eliminate the current duke by nefarious means, Ludovico Sforza is Isabella's match in intellect and passion for all things of beauty. Only he would allow her to fulfill her destiny: to reign over one of the world's most powerful and enlightened realms and be immortalized in oil by the genius Leonardo da Vinci.Though Isabella weds the Marquis of Mantua, a man she has loved since childhood, Beatrice's fortunes rise effortlessly through her marriage to Ludovico. The two sisters compete for supremacy in the illustrious courts of Europe, and Isabella vows that she will not rest until she wrestles back her true fate and plays temptress to the sensuous Ludovico and muse to the great Leonardo. But when Ludovico's grand plan to control Europe begins to crumble, immortality through art becomes a luxury, and the two sisters must choose between familial loyalty and survival in the treacherous political climate.
Leonardo's Swans is an exceptionally vivid evocation of the artist during his years in the glittering court of Milan, re-creating the thrilling moments when he conceived The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. It portrays a genius ahead of his time who can rarely escape the demands of his noble patrons long enough to express his own artistic vision.
©2006 Karen Essex; (P)2006 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"Powerful historical fiction." (Booklist)
"The stories of Isabella and Beatrice d'Este along with the occasional investigations of Leonardo's artworks, methods, and personality are always engrossing." (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Cathy Dopp on 01-21-06

Renaissance history brought to life...

The story's so good in this book, you don't realize most of the history is actual. I knew many of the referernces made to Leonardo's works were based on facts, but I didn't realize that this incredible story of the d'Este sisters was also based on facts until I started researching them on the web.

Leonardo Da Vinci is not the major character in this book. The heroines are Isabella and Beatrice d'Este, two Italian princesses from the Ferra family. Both girls were bargained off into politically advantageous marriages before they turned 8, and married by the age of 15. This story follows them into their marriages and through the political power struggles between the ever-competing kingdoms in Italy. Leonardo is simply one of the more valued assets during this period. You'll see why principalities compete for him and how he ended up serving the King of France.

The author definately takes dramatic license to let you into the lives of these two women, but she did her homework first. You'll be able to vividly imagine the power struggles within the courts and between Renaissance Kingdoms. You'll understand why Leonardo spent as much time devising Military Machines as he did painting. You'll learn why Isabella d'Este is often referred to as the "First Lady of the Renaissance".

Note: Should this book intrigue you as much as it did me, you'll find it easy to view gorgeous portraits of Isabella and Beatrice D'Este on the internet. You can also view Leonardo's Brass Horse Sculpture project. It was finally completed in Milan, Italy - only 500 years after his death!

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Keith Aspinall on 03-13-06

Solid and fun, but disappointing

I enjoyed this book for its period character, and it is a good story with strong characters. Somehow, the overall effect did not reach its full potential. Very little detail of the times of DaVinci in the book, quite a trivial tale really. Was it Leonardo's swans to ride the coattails of the DaVinci Code?

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