Set against the glorious backdrop of Venice, this novel tells the stories of two artists, separated by four centuries. Corradino Manin is a master glass maker on Murano, at the height of Venice's dominance of the glass making craft. The rulers of Venice ruthlessly protect their monopoly on these glass making techniques, so when he is approached by a representative of Louis XIV of France, he knows he is risking his very life.
In the present, Corradino's descendant, Leonora Manin, recently divorced and adrift, moves to Venice to pursue a career as a glassblower, and to explore her roots in this ancient city. She finds herself at the center of a storm of controversy over the legacy of her famous ancestor. Leonora's story and Corradino's are intertwined through the book.
As an exploration of Venice and its history, this novel works wonderfully. It is especially effective in showing the ruthlessness with which the Republic of Venice maintained its trade advantages. However, the modern portions of this story fell a bit flat. The romance is a bit predictable, and Leonora comes off feeling far too young and immature for the role she's cast in. The story is diverting, but it just doesn't quite ring true on some level, it detracts from the overall impact of the book. Also, the inclusion of the first chapter, verbatim, later in the book is also a distraction. Having already read it, it was hard to understand how repeating it wholesale, without any new details, serves the story.
Not a bad first novel, and a pleasant way to revisit a glorious setting, but certainly showing room for improvement.