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Sistine Heresy Paperback – February 2, 2009
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Saracen weaves an easy-t0-read history of the period using the fictional Adrianna to weave a story of intrigue, intolerance, art, and heresy. Michelangelo is painting the Sistine Chapel, the current Pope is plotting war, and the Inquisition follows Adrianna to Rome in the guise of a Dominican priest. Saracen also includes a little romance between Adrianna and a woman artist who disguises herself as a man in order to help Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.
If you love a well-written historical novel, then this book is for you.
Kudos to Bold Strokes Books for publishing this book that goes against the demands of the genre.
It is the passing of a corrupt and all to secular pope (Alexander VI), father-in-law to Adrianna that first brings her face-to-face with a compelling painter Raphaela Bramante and her architect father as she attempts to pay respect to the deceased pope before she flees to Spain.
Later she returns to Rome and tentatively resumes contact with her friends, Michelangelo and Domenico, both dependent upon the patronage of the new pope, Julius II, one bent on expanding the papal power. Not only does Julius contend with other leading ruling powers, but also the growing threat of heresy not only within from the selling of indulgences, but from an expanding humanistic and scientific renaissance chafing under the church's dogma.
It is in this charged climate that Adrianna must deal with her growing attraction to Raphaela, but also her support of friendships that threaten to bring her to the unwanted attention of an ascetic cardinal and ultimately the pope; both distrustful of her association with the once-powerful Borgias.
This book is so much more than a romance, which in fact is only one ribbon that undulates amongst many beautifully presented. At the heart of these many themes is the Sistine Chapel and the work that Michelangelo creates, one that Saracen implies sums up the conflicts of the Renaissance period. This book is a gourmet feast that includes power, politics and religion on a grand scale and gives the reader thoughtful challenges. Well worth the read.
I was disappointed to find that this book reads like a textbook with a political agenda. When the author is not lecturing the reader with historical facts disguised as prose, the characters do so through dialogue.
Clearly, I am not able to appreciate this author's writing style and I need to stop trying.
Having said that, I hope another author explores working with what was lost here as the time period, the settings, and the cast of characters provide the opportunity for something truly magical.