Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Master of Verona by David Blixt


A Fantastic Novel of pre-Renaissance Verona!





Summary:

A sweeping novel of Renaissance Italy, THE MASTER OF VERONA follows Pietro Alaghieri, eldest son of the poet Dante, as he's caught up by the charisma and genius of Verona's ruler, Cangrande della Scala. Pietro risks battles, duels, and murder to impress his new lord. At the heart of the story is an infernal plot against Cangrande's bastard heir, and the rivalry of two friends over the affections of a girl. That rivalry will sever a friendship, divide a city, and initiate a feud that will someday produce the star-crossed lovers. Based on the plays of William Shakespeare, the poetry of Dante, and the history of Italy, THE MASTER OF VERONA is a novel of brutal warfare, lost friendship, and dire conspiracy, combining to create a heart-stoppingly epic journey into the birth of the Renaissance that recalls the best of Bernard Cornwell and Dorothy Dunnett. 

Review:

In 14th century Italy, poet Dante Alighieri is banished from his beloved home town of Florence. With his two sons, Pietro and Jacopo, he is invited to travel to Verona and become part of Francesco ‘Cangrande’ della Scala, the Lord of Verona’s household. There, much intrigue unfolds as the war for Vicenza erupts with Padua and as repeated attempts are made against Cangrande’s illegitimate heir. Pietro is irretrievably drawn into the issues and battles facing Cangrande. To make matters worse, Pietro’s two friends, Mariotto and Antonio, are in contest with each other over a woman, which leads the readers into the tragic story of Romeo and Juliette, giving it roots and bringing it to life in greater detail. This novel takes place in the Veneto region of Italy – Vicenza, Padua, Venice, and Verona, and books about this region are indeed rare. So it was with great interest that I picked up this book. Especially since my own Italian roots are firmly planted in the Veneto region. 

With a blend of true historical characters such as Dante, Cangrande della Scala, the story of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, and real historical events with the wars between the neighboring cities, this is a breathtaking epic. As Pietro and his friends are drawn into Cangrande’s troubles, they face the horrors of battle and participate in the Palio, a brutal, life-threatening horse race through the streets of Verona still conducted today in Siena. The author writes with such wonderful detail, these scenes are gripping and so real, that I found myself totally immersed in the story. In addition for my great interest in the era and setting of this story, what I enjoyed most was the abounding suspense and strong historical details. It is evident that the author did a great amount of research and gained a strong understanding of the era and its most famous persons. The entire story, from start to finish was completely entertaining and engrossing. 

There is a huge cast of characters, and the author sometimes refers to them by nickname, first name, or last name which can be confusing and makes this book a bit of a challenging read. I recommend bookmarking the character list at the start and referring to the list often until the names and their derivatives become familiar. But don’t let that daunt you. This book is masterfully written, so rich with detail, and full of wonderful suspense, battle scenes, and romance that there is something for everyone. A true epic and a story well worth sinking your teeth into.
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