Original date of publication: 2011
My edition: 2011 (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Why I decided to read: I enjoyed Marina Fiorato’s other books and thought I’d give this a go
How I acquired my copy: Amazon Vine, May 2011
Set amidst the danger and excitement of early 18th-century Siena, the plot of this novel centers on an event to which the Sienese look forward to eagerly: the Palio, a traditional horse race that takes place twice, in July and August. Pia of the Tolomei is descended from Cleopatra and the daughter of a wealthy patrician. He marries her to a member of a family from an opposing ward in the city, despite tradition. When her future husband is killed in the Julia Palio, Pia is married to his brother. Over the course of the next month or so, she develops a relationship with a horse rider, and the two of them work (in conjunction with Violante de’ Medici, who has governed the city for ten years) to fight a plot to take over Siena, led by the Nine—leaders from each section of Siena.
If it sounds clichéd, it definitely is. There’s nothing really fresh or original about the plot or the characters of this one. All of the good guys are really, really good, and all of the bad guys are really, really bad. There’s no nuance to any of them, with the exception of Violante, so she’s really the only character who really leapt off the page for me. Also, I found myself rolling my eyes at the clichéd phrases the author uses to describes her characters. Her two main protagonists are of course very good looking, and Pia has raven-black hair. The reader is also told over and over again that she’s intelligent, but we never get proof of this.
I thought the idea for the novel was interesting; to my knowledge, not many novels I’ve read focus on the history and culture of Siena, and so I was excited to read a novel that focuses on this beautiful city. But the author’s descriptions of the place in which her novel is set are so wooden that it really didn’t come to life for me. Also, the novel could have taken place at any time in history, for all the historical detail we get (we get the occasional mention of wigs and breeches, though). I really wanted to like this novel, but didn’t, sorry to say.