It is the early fifteenth century, and the Italian peninsula is ravaged by war. While Milan fights for its political and economic life, Duke Filippo Maria Visconti lies on his deathbed with no heir to succeed him. But the old nobleman has a secret: He has a son.
Visconti hands over the one-year-old child to the archdeacon Onorio, who agrees to keep him safe. Little does young Niccolò know that when he comes of age, he will inherit the great Visconti fortune and become the city’s next duke.
Years later, in the shadows of a new cathedral, the members of a secret brotherhood practice alchemy and plot court intrigues, working to fulfill the ancient prophecy of the goddess Belisama. The brothers, sustained by blind faith, will do whatever it takes to achieve their Grande Opera, but first they need peace in the city, and Niccolò is the only one who can help. But when he starts to witness mysterious rites and killings, Niccolò will be forced to reconsider his destiny.
The story begins with a brutal rape scene and it turned my stomach. In my opinion this is not a way to start a story. I have to admit; I didn’t think I would finish this book. Though I am used to writers writing violence in stories-when needed-I felt this story focused on too much brutality and took much away from other themes of the story. Though I do realize this story takes place in a period of history ravaged by war. Still, too much brutality for my taste.
I was intrigued with certain aspects of this story. Milan captured my attention and the political and economic life during that time. However, I found it hard to follow due to the fact that some of the names were not known to me. Which I will be researching on my own time. Also, I would like to add that I felt like I was back in history class.
The premise of a Visconti dying and had no known surviving male heirs intrigued me at first but did not hold my attention.
None of the characters appealed to me. I am all about character development AND wanting to find a connection to the characters. That did not happen for me in this story.
I lost interest in this story quickly and as an avid reader of Historical Fiction I found that very disappointing. I do like the book cover and title. That is what first captured my attention and had high hopes going in. I am sad to say I have rated this book two and a half stars.
Stephanie M. Hopkins