Author: Elizabeth Loupas
Series: Stand Alone
Published: April 1st 2014 by NAL Trade
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Description: April, 1574, Florence, Italy. Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici lies dying. The city is paralyzed with dread, for the next man to wear the red lily crown will be Prince Francesco: despotic, dangerous, and obsessed with alchemy. Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own. Witness to sensuous intrigues and brutal murder plots, Chiara seeks a safe path through the labyrinth of Medici tyranny and deception. Beside her walks the prince’s mysterious English alchemist Ruanno, her friend and teacher, driven by his own dark goals. Can Chiara trust him to keep her secrets even to love her or will he prove to be her most treacherous enemy of all?
I Give This ...
Elizabeth Loupas has become a must read historical fiction author for me. She's introduced me to characters I knew nothing about and has branched out my historical fiction reading. This addition to her collection was no exception.
I found Chiara to be fascinating. I think as lot of that had to do with her knowledge of alchemy, which is a subject I know very little about but am very intrigued by. I also found her to be very strong for a female in her time period. She sets out to track down the Prince knowing that she has what he wants. She barely bats an eye at the tests he puts her through. I do have to say that I'm not sure if she was doing this for her family or more for herself. She finds herself wanting to learn more about alchemy and push the limits of what she can do. However, she also never forgets to provide for her family and thinks of their safety constantly.
The part of the story that drew me in the most was how messed up the Medici family was. I knew nothing of this family before reading this book. Afterwards, I had to go look up information because I wanted to know how much of the events were fabricated. Francesco was awful to his wife and flaunted around his mistress, whom I flat out despised by the end of the novel. The novel may present Francesco's involvement in his sister's death as fact, but no matter how you look at is I doubt his hands were clean in the matter. Especially when you consider that their cousin died in a very similar manner only a week before. When Francesco and Bianca are poisoned and die, I felt no better about the new Grand Duke.
I was happy to see Chaira escape from under this family. I can't imagine being caught up in the kind of treachery on a daily basis. It's no wonder that she had the rest of her family escorted out of the city to safety. In the end she found love and perhaps a little peace, but I bet she always watched her back.