Leonardo's Swans

  • by Karen Essex
  • Narrated by Kathe Mazur
  • 13 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.


What the Critics Say

"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

Good, but not Captivating

This is a novel in which all the main characters are actual historical figures. The story itself is quite good - but almost completely due to the subject matter. The time around the turn of the 16th century in Italy is rich in events, political intrigue and fascinating characters. So I almost hate to say that I wasn't captivated by this audiobook.

The story is told from the viewpoints of sisters Isabella & Beatrice d'Este - two of the most influential women of the Italian Renaissance. It focuses on their relationships with their politically powerful husbands, with each other, and (marginally) with Leonardo da Vinci.

Perhaps if I had read, rather than listened to, this book, I might have had a much different opinion. It's possible that the narrator - even though she seemed to be a good reader - lacked that certain spark that makes for a great audiobook. The characters all seemed to run together & at times, I'm afraid I lost track of which sister was "speaking."

On the plus side, this book made me want to know more about each character & their actual histories. So my overall experience with this book was a positive one.
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- Michael Allen

Don't Bother

I didn't even make it half way through this book. I liked the narrator, but the story was just dull and very slow moving. I could not care about any of the main characters as all they did was whine for what they did not have - clothes, money, power. Just not to my taste, really.
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- Kimberly

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-20-2006
  • Publisher: Books on Tape