In the simmering hot summer of 1492, a monstrous evil is stirring within the Eternal City of Rome. The brutal murder of an alchemist sets off a desperate race to uncover the plot that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance and plunge Europe back into medieval darkness.
Determined to avenge the killing of her father, Francesca Giordano defies all convention to claim for herself the position of poisoner serving Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, head of the most notorious and dangerous family in Italy. She becomes the confidante of Lucrezia Borgia and the lover of Cesare Borgia. At the same time, she is drawn to the young renegade monk who yearns to save her life and her soul.
Navigating a web of treachery and deceit, Francesca pursues her father’s killer from the depths of Rome’s Jewish ghetto to the heights of the Vatican itself. In so doing, she sets the stage for the ultimate confrontation with ancient forces that will seek to use her darkest desires to achieve their own catastrophic ends.
This was an awesome, action-packed novel. I have become a huge fan of the Borgia’s in recent years and this book definitely lives up to my high expectations. I love the main character Francesca Giordano – she is spunky, intelligent, confident and independent but best of all was her attitude – she’s a total bad-ass. Yes, she has a lover, who cares, totally the atypical female character in historical fiction. I liked the fact that she was a little more modern, it just added to her character. The fact that she was totally honest and open with her desire for revenge, her blood-lust, her promiscuity made for a great read. I find that often author have their female characters hide these feelings and the fact that Ms. Poole portrayed her as a strong, independent woman was different. There is no “damsel in distress” (ok … there’s one small part, but nothing major) but she also doesn’t have a “super woman” or “invincible” attitude either. Instead, Francesca is real. Her other characters were equally amazing – I have fallen in love with Cesare … and this book portrays him in a very attractive light.
I also really enjoyed Poole interpretation of the workings of the Catholic Church. Obviously she has done her research because it shows in her writing – full of rich details and colourful descriptions. There were some parts that moved a little slow for my liking, but overall it was a great read. I would recommend this for anyone who is a fan of the Borgia’s – it’s also a great accompaniment to the Bravo series.