Master of Verona. David Blixt. St. Martin's Griffin. September 2008. 592 pages pbk. ISBN #: 9780312361440 .
Pietro Alaghieri (Palio) is 17 years old at the opening of this novel and definitely a boy constantly being corrected by his father, the famous poet Dante who wrote "The Inferno." But Palio will soon prove himself as a man as he inadvertently becomes involved in a battle led by "Cangrande" or Francesco della Scalla. Palio is wounded and remains lame in one leg. That, however, does not daunt Palio as he continues to repeatedly prove his fierce bravery and loyalty.
Sounds like a simple plot, right? Not at all. Words can hardly convey the depth of plot, characterization, battle scenes, political intrigue, et al contained in these amazing pages! To begin with, Palio's father has been exiled from his native Florence and his writings are considered brilliant by many but also heretical by many others, who make the sign of the evil eye when he passes. Then there is Cangrande's sister, an enigmatic woman who seems to have a very strong affect on her brother, who will later bring up a mysterious child predicted to have a formidable role in Italian politics, and who knows her brother and his secrets like no other friend or foe!
Feuding between the Northern medieval cities is a constant, with agreements and betrayals interspersed with battles described in realistic detail. Astrology is a foremost aspect in the lives of all characters, laced with the warnings of a church divided within itself. The quest for power fuels all!
Poetry and prose are aptly included, with a fascinating look at the publishing (or copying in reality) process described through the character of Palio's sister. A strong allusion to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is present in the war between two of Palio's friends over a woman, with a fierce battle not ending the debacle.
Finally, there's a plot conceived by two main characters that does not become clear until the end but is masterfully carried out. Who, out of the mysterious prophecy, will be the "wolf" leader bound to unite Italy and create a new destiny for this war-besieged country?
Master of Verona cannot be simply described but MUST be experienced. David Blixt is a brilliant, talented writer whose novels will be relished by all lovers of historical fiction and those who love a great story full of intelligence, wit, humor, adventure, romance, and so much more! So, well-done, David Blixt!