Sunday, July 31, 2011

Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance

Title: Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance
Author: Sara Poole
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2010

Recommendation: Pretty fun, but needs better writing.
Rating: 7/10

Summary: Francesca Giordano is 17 and after her father's brutal murder she connives her way into the service of Rodrigio Borgia as his personal poisoner, taking over her father's trade. Hard work is ahead of her since Borgia is making plans for becoming the next Pope and competition between the cardinals of the church is getting fierce.

Reactions: This book came to my attention because of a pretty good review I've read and since it was only $2.99 for the Kindle edition, I decided there was little to lose here. Overall, it was an entertaining book, but not a particularly well-written one.

From the very beginning my beef with this book was the narrator's voice. Francesca is presenting her story in 1st person POV and unfortunately in quite a few places the author just seems to speak out of Francesca's mouth instead. In one instance the description of Rome by Francesca sounds a lot more like something out of a modern tour guide than out of someone living in the actual Rome of 1490's. In other instances, she presents views so modern that it's hardly believable a girl of her age could possibly conceive them. This inconsistent narration was #1 reason I didn't give the book a much higher rating.

For all the issues, the author managed to create a fascinating world with interesting characters, intrigues, breath-taking adventures, assassination attempts, love and sex. It's an entertaining yarn from start to finish and it was quick and enjoyable reading -- until one or another of Francesca's remarks would annoy me.

The plot also follows a number of real historical events around the death of Pope Innocent VIII and the election of Pope Alexander VI. It's not an era I am particularly familiar with and it was an interesting introduction to the politics of the times. In fact, reading the book prompted me to read a number of related Wikipedia articles on the Borgia family and other associated characters which was quite interesting and educational to boot.

To sum it up, the book itself is not amazingly well written, but entertaining and a pretty good catalyst for learning about Rome. Not sure I would entirely recommend it, but if the plot sounds appealing to you, it may be worth picking up.

1 comment:

  1. If the Borgia family caught your interest I remember reading The Family by Mario Puzo and enjoying it. Though it's been a long time since I read the book, I still think I'd enjoy it now as much as I did then. It has a fictional (and at times, not so fictional) account of the Borgia brand of crazy.