Monday, August 22, 2011


I finished this book while on vacation in California, and I loved it! Sara Poole did such a fantastic job with this book I am so glad I discovered it. Sometimes I find books or authors by reading the reviews on the books I read, or sometimes they will suggest authors at the end of the book to read. But once in a while, I'll just peruse the books at the library and I found this little gem. It is set in the summer of 1492 in Rome, and it follows Francesca Giordano as she works for Rodrigo Borgia, head of the most notorious and dangerous family in Italy. Francesca's father was killed while employed by Rodrigo as his poisoner. The mystery following his death leads Francesca to seek employment to try and avenge her father's death.

While at Court, she uses her wiles and smarts to take her father's place as Rodrigo Borgia's poisoner. People employed them to keep them safe from being assassinated or killed, and their families as well. So Francesca's job was to make sure the households were safe from poisons in all their different forms; she inspected the foods, drinks and such that entered the houses. Her job was busy and also dangerous, because she also tasted the food herself before allowing her employers to eat. She also used her scientific smarts to develop poisons of her own. While working for Rodrigo, she soon is entangled in a plot to kill Pope Innocent. He is about to sign an edict that would have all of the Jews in Rome killed, and Rodrigo among others wants to stop him. In order to do so, they need to kill him before it is too late. It is up to Francesca to do the job, even though her conscience is bugging her not to.

As she battles within herself, she does what she must and is almost killed herself. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain had driven the Jews out of Spain with nothing on their backs, and they came to Italy to find a home. They were packed in such close confines and poor conditions, that many died and many diseases and sicknesses were spread. Francesca often visited that part of the city, to try and discover a disease of the blood that could also kill Pope Innocent, and in so doing, making his death look natural. The main part of being a poisoner, was to make the death look natural so as not to look guilty in the crime. If Pope Innocent were to die of unnatural causes, Rodrigo Borgia would naturally be found guilty, because he was a fierce competitor for the next Pope opening.

The book is exciting and intense as it follows Francesca and her friends, some Jews, as they help her to accomplish her dangerous mission. In her line of work, she is oftentimes ordered to kill even when she doesn't want to. She finds the man responsible for her father's murder, a crazed priest that looks like an angel, named Morozzi. The book follows her through the Vatican, and even into the Jewish ghetto and the palaces and churches of Rome. It almost reads like another Da Vinci Code, but even better. I liked her character because she had morals, and despite the things she had to do for her job, she tried to be the best she could be, and tried to save the thousands of lives of Jews. I find the scenery of Rome and Italy beautiful and interesting. Eventually, Francesca is able to succeed in her desires, and Rodrigo Borgia is made the next pope. I was intrigued by this book for many reasons; a woman holdling such a lucrative job, that of a poisoner, and also by the times. The Borgia's are a highly controversial subject still today, known for their lust, power and even danger. It was interesting to be able to read more about the family through the perspectives of an employee who was also a friend.

Another interesting aspect of the book, was to see how corrupt a lot of priests and church men were. I'm not doubting that there were truly some obedient and faithful men, but there were many that were corrupt, using money and power to get their means. Rodrigo Borgia was one such person; he had many mistresses and illegitimate children, he had people killed to get what he wanted, he used money to buy people and their support, etc. The one thing I liked about him was that he was such a hard worker, that he kept his family private and didn't use them for his means, and he also tried to keep the Jews safe. At the end of the book, Francesca is still not able to kill her father's killer, he is still on the loose. I am excited and anxious to read the next book in the series, Serpent. I highly recommend this book because it is so interesting and a real page turner. Very brief sexual scenes, tasteful and brief, no swearing, but some violence and torture.

No comments:

Post a Comment