The Serpent and the Pearl

Kate Quinn
The Serpent and the Pearl
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Penguin Group
Release Date
April 2013
Historical fiction

One powerful family holds a city, a faith, and a woman in its grasp—from the national bestselling author of Daughters of Rome and Mistress of Rome.

Rome, 1492. The Holy City is drenched with blood and teeming with secrets. A pope lies dying and the throne of God is left vacant, a prize awarded only to the most virtuous—or the most ruthless. The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web…

Vivacious Giulia Farnese has floor-length golden hair and the world at her feet: beauty, wealth, and a handsome young husband. But she is stunned to discover that her glittering marriage is a sham, and she is to be given as a concubine to the ruthless, charismatic Cardinal Borgia: Spaniard, sensualist, candidate for Pope—and passionately in love with her.

Two trusted companions will follow her into the Pope's shadowy harem: Leonello, a cynical bodyguard bent on bloody revenge against a mysterious killer, and Carmelina, a fiery cook with a past full of secrets. But as corruption thickens in the Vatican and the enemies begin to circle, Giulia and her friends will need all their wits to survive in the world of the Borgias.

Book Review by Ashia (reviewer)
Apr 01, 2014   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
85 people found the following review helpful
History comes alive once again in Kate Quinn's hands.

Giulia Farnese dreams of a happy marriage like any young girl, only to discover to her dismay that she's to be the mistress of the pope. And she brings with her her cook, Carmelina Mangano, and her bodyguard, Leonello, who have secrets of their own...

I do believe it's not for us to judge why certain people behaved in a certain way or why they chose a certain path. It's the same in historical fiction. What astounded me as I read this first book of the Borgias is how Kate Quinn was able to make the characters' decisions come across as justified and reasonable, based on the circumstances in which they find themselves. One example would be Giulia Farnese's decision to become the Pope's (then Cardinal Borgia) mistress. I don't know if the events truly happened that way, but it could have, and that is due to Ms. Quinn's talented imagination. As a result, Giulia, being one of the three narrators in the story, becomes an empathetic character, for all that she shirks her marriage vows and commits adultery.

Ms. Quinn also has to be commended for her excellent characterization. With Carmelina, you can really tell that she's a cook, maybe the cook, the way food is the center stage and focus of her world, her ease in the kitchen and around raw ingredients and recipes.

The Renaissance is the age when the arts flourish, a golden age celebrated by man. Yet, it is also the time of extreme moral degradation, especially in Christendom, something I didn't learn about in school, thus it was quite a shock to read this book.

Ms. Quinn's fluid writing style makes this book a delight to read, and though I had researched about Giulia Farnese and the Borgias while reading this book, the author incorporates twists and turns about her fictional characters, Carmelina and Leonello, that captivated me until the end.

I'm looking forward to the sequel in this duology, The Lion and the Rose, and I do hope Ms. Quinn will write about the Medici's sometime in the future. I don't mind learning history all over again through her books.
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