Ok, it's a medieval 'remake' of the famous fairy tale. The idea of setting it in Italy during the High Renaissance is rather intriguing itself, and Maguire shows that he has visited the places he writes about.
Personally, I believe that Bianca is way too naive, Lucrezia way too conventional (and by this I mean that the author portraits her in the typical way she is generally described, i.e. mean and horny - maybe this book could have been a good occasion to portrait a more historically accurate Lucrezia Borgia), and Vicente is way too stupid, especially after his return to Montefiore. In a word, the characters weren't very credible. But after all, it's a fairy tale, so no need to be credible.
So why just 1 star? Because there is something in this book that I really can't stand - and that is typical, for as much as I hate to make general statements - of some American writers.
Maguire wants to show us all how educated he is, how well he can write, and how deep he researched before writing this novel, and does it in two ways.
The first one (and the more tolerable) is to use a very heavy and baroque, I would say, writing style. Not that I want first-grade sentences, but this is frankly tiring. Adding frills to each sentence makes the book rather boring to read (and probably Maguire ignores that the XVI century's Italian was still heavily influenced by Latin, which is probably one of the most 'linear' (as opposed to baroque) languages has ever existed. Maguire's style would be more historically pertinent if the plot were set in 1700 circa).
The second thing, which I personally can't stand, is the inane and repeated use of Italian in the sentences. Something like 'The contadini were working in the vast campi around Montfiore, while the bells of the duomo were tolling'. But what's worst is that, when it comes to titles and a few other things, he commits some serious mistakes. Lucrezia is the Duchessa DI Ferrara, not 'de'. 'De' is Spanish (or French), not Italian. Addresses in Rome are spelled wrong, names of cities or palaces are spelled wrong... too many mistakes for someone who, in his biography on the back cover reminds us that he lectured is oh-so-many Universities in the States.
I saw such supposing attitude (pretend to know a language without even caring to use Google or Babelfish) when I read 'Angels and Demons' and a couple of Tom Clancy's (or Ken Follett?) novels set in Italy or with an Italian character. Ok, maybe I take it a bit too personally, but it relly drives me nuts :-)...Continua