Author: Sara Poole
Format: Paperback, 416 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: August 3rd, 2010
Rating: 3 out of 5 HEARTS
Synopsis from Goodreads
In the simmering hot summer of 1492, a monstrous evil is stirring within the Eternal City of Rome. The brutal murder of an alchemist sets off a desperate race to uncover the plot that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance and plunge Europe back into medieval darkness.
Determined to avenge the killing of her father, Francesca Giordano defies all convention to claim for herself the position of poisoner serving Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, head of the most notorious and dangerous family in Italy. She becomes the confidante of Lucrezia Borgia and the lover of Cesare Borgia. At the same time, she is drawn to the young renegade monk who yearns to save her life and her soul.
Navigating a web of treachery and deceit, Francesca pursues her father’s killer from the depths of Rome’s Jewish ghetto to the heights of the Vatican itself. In so doing, she sets the stage for the ultimate confrontation with ancient forces that will seek to use her darkest desires to achieve their own catastrophic ends.
Poison is a historical fiction novel set in Renaissance Italy during the time of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia. Before you had the infamous Italian gangsters remembered today you had the Borgia family. This novel is full of betrayal, lies, secrets, scandal, murder, intrigue, suspicion and the inevitable fight for power.
The main character Francesca Giordano finds herself the new poisoner for Cardinal Borgia after the death of her father. As a young woman in a powerful position she must protect the life of the Cardinal while trying to uncover the mystery surrounding her father’s death. She unfortunately winds up with far more than she bargained for.
I enjoyed the historical events and backdrop for this novel very much. I love being transported to another time and place. The sights, smells, how people lived, worked and dressed back then were all very interesting. I didn’t know much about the Borgia family before reading this book, so it was very fascinating to learn about this scandalous family. The dynamic between the different class systems in Italy during the Renaissance was also interesting as well.
The dynamic of all the different players in the book kept the pace moving right along. From Rocco (the glassmaker), Cesare and Lucrezia (Borgia’s children) to David and the Jews, Francesca had plenty of substantial characters to play off of. I felt what was lacking in the character department was Francesca herself. I just didn’t care for or about her like I wanted to. I feel the author did a fantastic job building this world full of history and multi-layered characters but then forgot about Francesca a bit. I wanted more of her back story I guess. Why is Francesca like she is? What would have lead her to make that choice? Also the love triangle; if you want to call it that; was a bit disappointing for me as well. Although again, I think that has to do with me not really liking Francesca all that much because Rocco was definitely a fine candidate for a romantic angle.
With all that being said, I thought Poison was a good read. The intrigue of the plot definitely kept me turning the pages and since I’m a sucker for historical fiction I will probably give the next book in the series, The Borgia Betrayal a go.