The King's Agent by Donna Russo Morin
Author: Donna Russo Morin
Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1500s / Italy / Florence / Art / Conspiracy)
Publisher/Publication Date: Kensington (3/1/2012)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Rating: Okay to liked.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A modest noblewoman with a secret and an honorable, patriotic thief take a jaunty journey, inspired by Dante's masterpiece, in search of a sculpture that might change everything.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction
Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's pretty -- but I hate the truncated head shot and it doesn't exactly fit the story (other than imply, I presume, the heroine). I would have loved one of the pieces of art mentioned in the story, or something alluding to Dante's works -- anything but the bland costumed lady!
I'm reminded of...: Emilio Salgari
First line: His hands quivered ever so slightly.
Do... I like the author's blog?: YES. Donna Russo Morin shares historical tidbits and adorable geekiness that makes me
Was... I delighted to find that Russo Morin used real art and artists as part of her story?: YES. I love art and I've a soft spot for mystical magical hidden things in art -- it's so fun! That the mysterious Sebastiano Mainardi painting crucial to the plot was real made me so happy!
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for a very diverting weekend.
Why did I get this book?: I've heard great things about Morin's previous books and I am just a sucker for histfic.
Review: This is a romp of a novel. The story literally bounces along, bops happily through Florence and Italy in search of mysterious piece of sculpture of immense importance, following clues from Dante's Divina Commedia, following clues in paintings that may or may not indicate UFOs. And yet, while it sounds a bit laughable and weird, it all kind of fits together and was, in the end, a great deal of fun.
Set in 1500s Florence, the story follows Battista della Palla, a Florentine patriot who steals art to keep Florence free. When he receives a mysterious request from the King of France to locate an even more mysterious sculpture, he comes across Lady Aurelia, protected ward of the Marquess of Mantua. Educated and longing for freedom, Aurelia allies herself with Battista and joins him in his search for the sculpture.
I suppose the flavor of this novel is 16th century Indiana Jones. While reading, I was reminded of Emilio Salgari, Zorro, and Errol Flynn movies. The playful thief-hero practically winks at the reader with each daring theft, and there's this overabundance of masculinity among the thief's band of co-thieves that begs to be slashed. It's campy, but what can I say? I love me some camp!
It took me some time to really get in to the story; the feel was a bit too bombastic for my tastes: first a theft! and a mischievous-but-honorable thief hero! and his adorably rascally and masculine crew! and a mysterious imprisoned woman! But about 60 pages in or so, I think the story settled in a bit and I got used to Morin's writing style, and from that point, I was sucked in.
The novel requires some suspension of disbelief and a willingness to not be a historical stickler (the heroine's behavior felt a little too romance novel-y feisty for me, a bit like Tangled's Rapunzel all grown up) but much like The DaVinci Code or the Indiana Jones movies, doing so allows for a delightfully silly, engrossing ride.
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Learn more about Donna Russo Morin: check out her webpage, Facebook, and Twitter. You can follow the tour on Twitter with #KingsAgentVirtualBookTour.
I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The King's Agent to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US readers only. Ends 3/16. Be sure to come back on Friday, March 2 for my interview with Donna Russo Morin!