The King’s Agent by Donna Russo Morin
ARC, Paperback, 384 pages
February 28, 2012
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Received from author as part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
“To the casual observer, Battista della Palla is an avid art collector, or perhaps a nimble thief. In reality, the cunning Italian is an agent for François, the King of France, for whom he procures the greatest masterpieces of the day by any means necessary. Embroiled in a power struggle with Charles V, the King of Spain, François resolves to rule Europe’s burgeoning cultural world. When he sets his sights on a mysterious sculpture, Battista’s search for the elusive objet d’art leads him to a captivating woman on a mission of her own…
Having spent her life under the controlling eye of her protector, the Marquess of Mantua, Aurelia longs for freedom. And she finds it in Battista. Together, they embark on a journey to find the clues that will lead him to the sculpture—a venture so perilous it might have spilled from the pen of Dante himself. From the smoldering depths of Rome to a castle in the sky, the harrowing quest draws them inextricably together. But Aurelia guards a dark secret that could tear them apart—and chance the course of history…”
What starts out as a seemingly standard historical fiction novel quickly turns into more of an adventure novel in a historical setting. This was a new sort of twist in the HF genre and certainly for Morin’s novels in general – and it was an amazingly fun ride! Our hero and heroine set out on an epic adventure to find a relic of some extraordinary power for the king of France. To ultimately get to this relic they will have to face tests of strength, speed, power, stamina, emotions and many more challenges along the way.
The author points out that two of the inspirations behind this novel are Dante’s The Divine Comedy, which is explicitly known while reading, and the video game series, Zelda. If you are not a video game aficionado you will not recognize any references to the video game, so don’t be concerned that it will cause to you miss out on something or won’t be to your interest. But, for those of us, me included, who are quite familiar with the game series you will notice that the format of the plot very much feels like a video game. There were times while I was reading where I remember thinking, “I remember doing that!” It was quite the multilayered experience and I can certainly understand why this was an inspiration. If you are not familiar with this video game series, I would compare the plot in some ways with The Da Vinci Code in the regard that you are looking for clues that are hidden in plain sight which will lead you to the next item of importance. In regard to The Divine Comedy I do not have much experience, except knowing the general concept of his work, but the novel actually helped me to have a new experience with the work. I have a lifetime goal to eventually read Dante’s work.
There is a requirement at some points where you have to suspend reality in this novel. This is especially true for those of us who read a lot of historical fiction when it tends to follow a set sort of path anchored in historical detail. The novel is certainly historical fiction, as the events that take place are set within the historical events, people, and setting, however there are some elements that sort of defy the historical formula. Again, a good thing, but just a heads up.
Morin chooses to set this novel in various prominent cities in Italy – Florence, Mantua, Rome – however for some reason I expected it to be set in France. I guess with the back cover text referring to King Francois I of France and not specifically stating Italy I got that stuck in my head. That being said, I loved the world created by the author. Everything stood out in vivid detail – and this is especially true of the artworks, which play a prominent role in this novel. If the art was not given a depth of definition I do not think the plot would have come off as well.
Another great outing from Donna Russo Morin – I can’t wait to read more of her work.
Donna Russo Morin also has written The Courtier’s Secret, The Secret of the Glass, and To Serve A King. You can visit Donna’s website for additional information about the books. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
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