The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn
Book 1 of A Novel of the Borgia series
Paperback, 432 pages
August 6, 2013
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Received from publisher for review
Rome, 1492. The Holy City is drenched with blood and teeming with secrets. A pope lies dying and the throne of God is left vacant, a prize awarded only to the most virtuous--or the most ruthless. The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web...
Vivacious Giulia Farnese has floor-length golden hair and the world at her feet: beauty, wealth, and a handsome young husband. But she is stunned to discover that her glittering marriage is a sham, and she is to be given as a concubine to the ruthless, charismatic Cardinal Borgia: Spaniard, sensualist, candidate for Pope--and passionately in love with her.
Two trusted companions will follow her into the Pope's shadowy harem: Leonello, a cynical bodyguard bent on bloody revenge against a mysterious killer, and Carmelina, a fiery cook with a past full of secrets. But as corruption thickens in the Vatican and the enemies begin to circle, Giulia and her friends will need all their wits to survive in the world of the Borgias.
The thing that stands out the most to me when thinking back on my experience with this book is all of the mouthwatering foods that Quinn describes. Even if I just finished dinner, this book made me hungry all over again. I am compelled to look up Renaissance recipes now to try them out.
This was another hit for Kate Quinn – her first step outside the Ancient Romans, but still within the comfort zone of Italy. Her witty style of writing shines through here as I expected; what I didn’t expect was to enjoy the Borgia clan quite so much. When hearing about the Borgia’s we always hear of the poisons, incest allegations, and general debauchery. While we still get a little bit of the debauchery in terms of the Pope’s mistress, the Borgias were relatively real here – and rather mild. I actually liked them!
I was glad that the narrators of this novel were not actually Borgias. The closest we get is Gulia, the Pope’s mistress. We certainly see and hear from Borgia family members, Roderigo, Cesare, Lucrezia and more, but also enjoyed the non-Borgia characters. I loved Leonello, a sort of body-guard for the Borgia ladies. He was so funny and I couldn’t help but picture Peter Dinklage while reading his chapters. Gulia was great – I loved seeing how she dealt with the various hands dealt to her. I started out disliking Roderigo Borgia, but he grew on me as the book wore on.
The book leaves off on a great cliff-hanger and you can’t help but wanting to know what happens next. I have a feeling that the main characters are all going to come out of this a little different than they went into it. I can’t wait for the next book in this duo!
Author Kate Quinn also has written 3 books set in Ancient Rome: Mistress of Rome, Daughters of Rome, and Empress of the Seven Hills. The second book in the Borgia series is expected for release in 2014. You can visit Quinn’s website or blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
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