Riders whip, horses foam and the roar of the crowd strangles all other sound of the piazza.
Two women look out from the crowd at the ten riders – both in hopeless resignation. Bound to the machiavellian son of a crime boss, there seems no escape for poor, innocent Pia.
And trapped behind her gilded palace walls and smothered by grief, Violante de’ Medici’s days as duchess are slipping from her grasp.
But as the hooves clatter in that miraculous Palio race of July 1723, both lives shall be turned irrevocably upside down.
The Daughter of Siena is one of Marina Fiorato’s seven books, the latest of which – Kit – was released on 16 July this year.
Spanning across 16th, 17th and 18th century Italian history, her novels manage not just to capture the vibrant and rich culture but immerse you deep within it’s bones.
The Manchester born writer is half-Venetian herself and is a history graduate of both the University of Oxford and University of Venice, specialising in the study of Shakespeare’s plays as a historical source.
Also studying in art, she has worked as an illustrator, actress and film reviewer.
The story, itself, probably doesn’t possess the most revolutionary plot line you have ever read and nor does it at times stray from some of the classic stereotyped characters and convenient twists.
However, what it lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in charm and enjoyment. A very easy read, I still loved the novel and couldn’t put it down.
A plot has been hatched to dethrone the Duchess and it seems the whole of Siena is stacked against her. As her ruler and family become locked in a dangerous game of cat and mouse, Pia must fight for her own freedom – but whose side should she back?
It’s simply a good, classic love story, with a healthy dollop of espionage thrown in.
The Medici Dynasty is not a historical topic I particularly knew much about prior to this novel, but the plot did present quite a lovely biographical background of key historical figures to fill in gaps. This was weaved quite seamlessly into the storyline and didn’t make you work for it.
From what I have since read up on the last three Medici heirs and Violante – I personally found there to be a harmony in the fictional and historical portrayals.
I particularly loved Violante’s character which I felt was well thought through and produced great interaction with other characters.
Arch-villain, Faustino Caprimulgo was likewise a most worthy adversary – perhaps the most complex all the characters, he was certainly a baddie you could respect as well as hate.
Daughter of Siena possessed some really lovely descriptive imagery throughout and the atmospheres that Fiorato creates are punchy and solid.
Her writing style is very accessible and engaging, with great fluidity – I really have no complaints on that front.
Overall, I am deeply satisfied with the novel. I do of course realise that classic, perhaps even predictable romance, is not to everyone’s tastes.
But if your looking for an effortless, guilty pleasure you can snuggle up and immerse yourself in at the end of the day, then I would highly recommend this book to you.
Published in May 2011 by St. Martin’s Griffin in the US, the novel retails at $14.99 and in the UK at £7.99 by Hodder & Stoughton.