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The Malice of Fortune

3.2  ·  Rating Details ·  1,393 Ratings  ·  280 Reviews
Against a teeming canvas of Borgia politics, Niccolò Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci come together to unmask an enigmaticserial killer, as we learn the secret history behind one of the most controversial works in the western canon, The Prince...
When Pope Alexander dispatches a Vatican courtesan, Damiata, to the remote fortress city of Imola to learn the truth behind the
Hardcover, 399 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by Doubleday (first published 2012)
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The Prince by Niccolò MachiavelliThe Birth of Venus by Sarah DunantBrunelleschi's Dome by Ross KingThe House of Medici by Christopher HibbertThe Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
The Renaissance
48th out of 174 books — 100 voters
The Borgia Bride by Jeanne KalogridisBlood & Beauty by Sarah DunantThe Family by Mario PuzoMadonna of the Seven Hills by Jean PlaidyPoison by Sara Poole
Best Books about the Borgia Family
46th out of 55 books — 141 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Oct 01, 2012 Jon rated it it was ok
I had very high hopes for this book--set in early 16th century Italy, based with careful attention to detail on actual events, and involving Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci as detectives (!) solving a murder. A fascinating preface, a good map, a list of dramatis personae, and a recognition that despite the religious orthodoxy of the time, the popular belief was that that bitch the goddess Fortuna, not God, ran human affairs. What's not to like? But I gave up after about 70 pages. The story ...more
Sep 16, 2012 Cynthia rated it it was ok
This isn't a horrible; in fact the premise caught my attention. It has many famous characters such as Cesare Borgia (Rodrigo, the pope's middle son, who was a cardinal and after his brother, Juan, was killed Cesare was released from the church as he'd been wanting to be and took over Juan's duties as head of Rodrigo's army), Niccolo Machaivelli, and Leonardo Da Vinci. I hated the characterization Da Vinci, making him into almost a caricature of what some people consider homosexual behavior. That ...more
Doubleday  Books
May 27, 2014 Doubleday Books rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thriller

“With its vivid, well-defined array of characters, The Malice of Fortune captures the glorious and gritty details of Renaissance Italy in a propulsive story. Ennis has achieved a great accomplishment, historical fiction that places us right into the characters' present.” —Matthew Pearl, author of The Monster of Florence and The Technologists

“The Malice of Fortune is more than a thriller--it's a tender love story, a grim exploration of the nature of human evil, and an immersive tour of Renaissan
Megan Baxter
Dec 10, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it
When I started reading this, my first reaction was that this seemed to be a more literate Da Vinci Code. In a historical setting rather than the present, and with da Vinci as an actual character rather than the architect of the puzzle. Still, people being killed in a theatrical manner and left in patterns for the pursuers to solve? It does sound a bit familiar, does it not?

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I
 Linda (Miss Greedybooks)
Fantastic cast of characters, Borgias, da Vinci, Machiavelli - now I must get "The Prince" out of storage and read it - "Machiavellian - today is arguably the most misunderstood and dangerously misused adjective in the popular lexicon".

I did not know about much of the history of "Malice", but what I watched on HBO's "The Borgias" so interesting! I have read some Borgia books, but why did I not know "The Prince" was modeled on Duke Valentino - Cesare Borgia?

Dec 13, 2012 David rated it did not like it
Annoying is the best way I can sum up my characterization of this book based on how I felt when I was reading it: annoyed. I won't add to the reviews already posted that gave it one or two stars, but I will say that this is one of the VERY few books I have ever abandoned mid-read (I quit on page 100 or so) and i will echo the sentiments already expressed in many of these reviews: The constant intrusion of Italian words with no definition and often not definable based on context clues. We get it, ...more
Jason Golomb
Michael Ennis has woven an elaborate Renaissance tapestry with his novel "Malice of Fortune". He's embedded a good old-fashioned murder mystery within a tale of corrupt priests and mercilessly unrepentant Italian warlords, who live in a world struggling to actualize and accept that science and religion can coexist.

Two-thirds of the tale is written from the perspective of Niccolo Machiavelli as he details his activities in trailing Cesare Borgia on behalf of his Florentine government, while Borg
Sep 29, 2012 Ed rated it did not like it
This review proves the adage "never say never." I never thought I would give a 1-star review.

First, I respect authors and feel that the only thing more difficult than getting a book published is *writing* a book (something I wish I could do, but can not. So forgive me from throwing stones from my glass house). Second, in a rare instance of personal self-esteem, I feel I am pretty darn good at picking out books. We are given far too little time on this planet to read all the books one would want
Jan 09, 2013 Laura rated it it was ok
I almost gave this a 1, but then again, I finished it. The story has great possibilities: Damiata, a courtesan and mistress to the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander (a Borgia) teams up with Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci to identify the murderer of Juan of Gandia (said illegitimate son). The first third of the book, told in Damiata's voice, is pretty compelling - lots of sex and violence, but she's good at heart, so a sympathetic character with an interesting back story. Then she ...more
Barbara Burd
Jun 25, 2012 Barbara Burd rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those who enjoy historical fiction
Recommended to Barbara by: NetGalley
This is an interesting book rich in history as Ennis weaves together the lives of Niccollo Macchiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Duke Valentino and a mysterious woman named Damiata. Constructing a story about how Macchiavellia came to write The Prince formed the basis of Ennis' premise. While something of a fantasy, the book is well-researched as Ennis portrays the contrasting cultures that exist during the brutal regime of the Borgias and then established characters that symbolize these cultures. ...more
Michael Ennis’ The Malice of Fortune is a dark mystery revolving around the Roman Catholic Pope Alexander’s son, Duke Valentino. Its main voices are those of Damiata, a courtesan whose life is wrapped up with the Borgias, and Niccolo Machiavelli, sent to Valentino’s court to protect the interests of Florence, albeit without any authority to negotiate.

The background of political intrigue and the potential of war add tension to the story, and the murders leave a gruesome undertone. What shines thr
Sep 20, 2012 Joseph rated it it was ok
With a Masters in Political Science I spent quite a bit of time reading Machiavelli. I found him brilliant and brutally honest. I think it was Fahrenheit who said something to the effect of: Machiavelli does not tell us how rulers should rule, but rather how the actually rule. I liked Machiavelli (who also wrote plays besides writing the Prince). I was really excited about this book. However....

The Machiavelli in this book reminded me more of Socrates in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventurer than
Oct 18, 2013 Anna rated it really liked it
Recommended to Anna by: goodreads
"The times change, but the nature of men does not. Such men ... will only find our new age more favorable, and they will tell us that their evils are only necessities of the times. But they will linger in the house of the Devil, savor his vintage, and acquire a taste for it."
Michael Ennis

multi-layered storytelling which transcends the crime fiction / mystery genres.
now I want to re-read The Prince (which I have not done since college) and then read this wonderful book again.
Jan 29, 2013 Charlie rated it really liked it
Much like the Tudors, the Borgias have been overdone in recent releases of historical fiction. However, The Malice of Fortune provides a new perspective by creatively using the well-known history and incorporating it into a mystery/murder plot. By using lesser known players in the Borgia game, author Michael Ennis brings a fresh twist to a popular scheme. You certainly don't have to know the Borgia family history to read and enjoy the book, but for those readers who are familiar, you'll get more ...more
Sep 17, 2016 Beatriz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
La historia está muy buena, la trama y personajes te hacen querer terminar de leer para saber que pasó y cómo se solucionará todo. Pero simplemente la manera en la que está escrito (no sé si culpar a Ennis o a Maquiavelo) no es de mi agrado... por eso tardé un mes en leer el libro.
Deborah Gray
Oct 10, 2012 Deborah Gray rated it really liked it
I was immediately captivated by the premise that this was a narrative based entirely on actual events of the late 1400s and early 1500s, with historical figures portrayed just as they were documented, but woven within a story that provided context, dimension and emotional texture. I was intrigued by the focus on Leonardo di Vinci in his engineering and scientific roles, and the far more compassionate and engaging portrait of Niccolo Macchiavelli than his distorted reputation.

The story was told
Althea Ann
Mar 03, 2013 Althea Ann rated it really liked it
I loved Ennis' "Duchess of Milan," was not so blown away by his other novel "Byzantium." Reading "Malice of Fortune," I think that his forte is Renaissance Italy. I really enjoyed this historical mystery.

Furious over the mysterious death of his beloved son, Pope Alexander Borgia blackmails the murdered Juan's former mistress, Damiata, into going to investigate the circumstances of his death. With the Pope holding her son hostage, and under suspicion herself, she has no choice.

Niccolo Machiavelli
Jul 31, 2012 J.R. rated it really liked it
A brilliantly conceived stew of murder, mystery and conniving.

Michael Ennis has woven a complex plot featuring some of history’s most intriguing characters in one of the more interesting periods of times and given them a complex puzzle to solve.

Ennis transports us to Renaissance Italy shortly after the murder of Juan, Duke of Gandia, favorite son of the manipulative Pope Alexander VI. Receiving an important clue, the pontiff holds Giovanni, the child of Juan and his mistress, Damiata, hostage.
Oct 05, 2012 Pam rated it really liked it
I thought, as I read this book that it was interesting and ok but I find as I enter it here is was, indeed, more than that. In early Sept I read. 'The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior: The Intersecting Lives of Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Borgia and the World They Shaped'...Picking up The Malice of Fortune I didn't quite realize how SPECIFICALLY these two books - one history and very well-presented and this novel - and very emotive and atmospheric - were not just the same people but...THE ...more
May 15, 2013 Dorothy rated it really liked it
Wonderful, thoughtful and thought provoking history-mystery. An enigma wrapped in a conundrum (or vice versa) this book is a study of human nature, power, ambition, curiosity and political philosophy interwoven among and within a murder(s) mystery. It is helpful to have a familiarity with late 15th/early 16th century Italian and papal history. If all you know about it you learned from the sensationalistic and historically bogus Borgias on Showtime this book may add another dimension to the ...more
Oct 10, 2012 Julie rated it did not like it
Shelves: own, vine, fiction
I slogged through 270 pages of this rubbish, before skimming the next 100 and reading over the last few chapters. What could have been an intriguing concept turned into a disaster of a novel. I was excited about the idea of Machiavelli and DaVinci teaming up to solve murders and a Borgia conspiracy, but it was so tedious, it couldn’t hold my interest. The characters weren’t even engaging. Machiavelli brooded too much over philosophical quandaries, constantly reflecting on “Fortune,” and DaVinci ...more
Mar 15, 2015 Jodi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is supposedly the true origins of Machievelli's The Prince. And while the eventual and interesting author's note separated fact from fiction, the fictional account of the investigation of the murder of the Pope's son, Juan of Guardia, is a convoluted love story about Machievelli and a courtesan that the Pope sends to investigate his son's death. And Leonardo da Vinci is thrown in for good measure. I listened to the audiobook. The first third is narrated by Carlotta Montanari, an Italian ...more
Johanna Bouchard
Jul 31, 2012 Johanna Bouchard rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, reviewed
Malice of fortune is an historical novel that reads like a thriller, something truly unique in this genre, which has a tendency to be a bit on the dry side. There was never a moment, for me, reading this book where I lost interest or got bored, though I will say it was pretty lengthy at nearly 400 pages long.
I loved the author's lavish descriptions that lend themselves to a vivid and full-color imagining, and there were several times while reading this book that it almost felt like I was actuall
Jun 30, 2016 Cindy rated it liked it
I did the audio version of this book even though there were many negative comments. I should have heeded that advice! I'm somewhat familiar with this time period of Italian Renaissance history, so was able to follow the story and the characters. But the two narrators made listening difficult. If you like this period of history and like stories that twist and turn, read the book. Don't listen.
Oct 11, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I really need another shelf choice...for "gave up." The premise was fascinating, the delivery not so much. I found the gratuitous use of Italian words annoying. Supposedly the characters are speaking in Italian (or regional dialect thereof), and thus have no need to lapse into their native language. I found the characters stilted and unsympathetic and by the midpoint of the book, my curiosity as to what became of everyone was beaten into submission. Too many books, too little time.
Feb 23, 2013 Jessica rated it liked it
This definitely improves in the back half with the POV switch to Machiavelli, but unfortunately the very depth of knowledge that likely prompted Ennis to write this overwhelms his plotting and characters. While I certainly believe that he's scrupulous in his research, a little less scholarly weight would have freed this one to be more enjoyable as a novel.
Vincent Lam
Sep 10, 2012 Vincent Lam rated it it was amazing
This is a stunning work of historical fiction, and equally a page-turning murder mystery. The depth of research, the compelling characterizations, and the addictively readable storytelling all combine to produce a novel of the highest accomplishment.
Rio (Lynne)
Dec 06, 2012 Rio (Lynne) marked it as library-has
I don't know about this? Niccolò Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci trying to track down a serial killer? If I wasn't so desperate for good Renaissance book, I'd say no way, but my library has it so maybe....That's a big maybe.
Kevin McAllister
Apr 28, 2012 Kevin McAllister rated it it was ok
When a work of fiction turns real life author of The Prince; Niccolò Machiavelli, into nothing more than a love struck puppy then it's safe to say : don't waste your time reading this silly fluff.
Aug 02, 2013 Kam rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, historical
Much has been said and written about, the Borgias. The increased interest in the Borgia family (mostly due to the popularity of Neil Jordan's The Borgias TV series) has led to an increased interest in them. This is no surprise: the story of the Borgias, even when told as bare history, is very interesting. Of course, there is much about that history that is in itself fiction: many contemporary historians are careful about what they accept as truth or rumor about this family, because so much of wh ...more
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“Where war goes on without end, all men are inevitably corrupted by its brutality -- and the worst horrors are visited upon the most innocent.” 4 likes
“The times change, but the nature of men does not. Such men ... will not find our new age more favorable, and they will tell us that their evils are only necessities of the times. But they will linger in the house of the Devil, savor his vintage, and acquire a taste for it.” 3 likes
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