by Donna Russo Morin
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication date: March 1, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
Purchase:Barnes and Noble/Amazon/Book Depository
The King’s Agent is based loosely on the life of Battista della Palla-a patriotic plunderer, a religious rogue-of the 16th century, a lifelong friend to the great Michelangelo.The King’s Agent is a historical fiction set in Renaissance Italy with a fantastic twist. The tale is filled with suspense, secret societies, hidden artifacts, romance and political intrigue. Based loosely on the life of Battista della Palla a patriotic plunder and friend to Michelangelo in the sixteenth century this tale captivated me.
As the cloistered ward of the Marquess of Mantua, Lady Aurelia is a woman with a profound duty, and a longing for adventure. In search of a relic intended for the King of France, Battista and Aurelia cross the breathtaking landscape of Renaissance Italy. Clues hide in great works of art, political forces collide, secret societies and enemies abound, and danger lurks in every challenge, those that mirror the passages of Dante's Divine Comedy. It is an adventurous quest with undercurrents of the supernatural, powers that could change the balance of supremacy throughout Europe.
The tale begins when we meet Lady Aurelia, the ward of the Marquess of Mantua. Her life is completely sheltered, guarded, and boring. She longs for adventure, to see sculptures, paintings, cities and landscapes. When Battista della Palla, a handsome thief from Florence breaks into her home she sees an opportunity for adventure. The tale that unfolds reminded me of the movie National Treasure and Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code. As Battista and Aurelia search for a hidden artifact to save Battista’s beloved Florence and aid King Francois of France they encounter secret societies, enemies, allies and an attraction to one another.
The character’s in Morin’s novel are well fleshed out and complex. Each chapter reveals more about them. I liked Aurelia and found her to be curious, brave and bright. There is an air of mystery about her, and she does some things that make you wonder whose side she is on. This added a thread of suspense throughout the novel. Battista is handsome, smart and has a fierce loyalty to the king of France. He loves Florence and is good to the men he employees. I enjoyed the way they interacted with one another. We meet Michelangelo and it was one of my favorite scenes. The author portrayed him in such an interesting light. We go inside the Vatican and hear conversations and thoughts of the current church, and its political views. Characters we meet along the way add to the adventure, from the voyeuristic couple with their wild dinner parties; to the mysterious woman Aurelia secretly meets. The relationship between Battista and Aurelia developed slowly and I enjoyed watching this tender romance unfold.
It is quite apparent that Morin did a lot of research for this novel. I loved the blending of historical fiction and fantasy. I was so impressed with how she wove The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri into the tale, allowing it to reveal clues on their quest. The quest itself was riveting, and action packed as they met danger and death at every corner. I like puzzles, conspiracy theories, secret societies and hidden relics with power and this novel delivers it all. The pace of this tale is slow at times; in part because of the details and world-building. I found myself on Goggle looking up; paintings, people and landmarks in Florence. I also dug up my copy of the Divine Comedy and re-read passages. The attention to detail, the unveiling of the countryside and the challenges within the quest make it well worth the time. I enjoyed the changing perspectives and the way Battista and Aurelia worked together to solve each piece of the quest. The ending reveals Aurelia secrets and wrapped things up nicely. The back of the book contains some interesting information from the author and in itself is worth a read. I found her reasons for the use of certain numbers touching. It is important to note that fans of The Legend of Zelda will see its influences within the quest. Sweet :)
I highly recommend The King’s Agent to fans of historical fiction and fantasy. This is the perfect book for a book club and the back of the book contains some wonderful questions. Donna Russo Morin is a talent author and I look forward to reading more of her work.
I want to thank the author for sending me a finished copy in exchange for my unbiased review.
I gave this 4 Italian espressos out of 5.