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The Master of All Desires
Judith Merkle Riley
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The Master of All Desires

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  913 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
He may promise your heart's desires but what he delivers is eternal pain and destruction

1556 in Paris: Queen Catherine de Medici's astrologer, the prophet Nostradamus, has divined a dreadful secret. The queen is trying to obtain the Undying Head of Menander-the Master of All Desires-in order to get rid of her husband's mistress. But she does not understand that the Master,
ebook, 480 pages
Published July 2nd 2013 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first published 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,590)
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Kate Quinn
May 21, 2010 Kate Quinn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title of this book is rather unfortunate - makes it sound like a terrible bodice-ripper. The "master of all desires" referred to in the title is really a severed head, and that requires an explanation in itself. Judith Merkle Riley presents her story in 16h century France, where Catherine de'Medici has not yet advanced in evil to the point of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and where a young noblewoman named Sibille finds herself embroiled with an occult plot. Sibille is devoted to poetr ...more
Dec 13, 2015 James rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, history
The story kicks off in 1556 and pretty swiftly turns into a Pratchett like farce with some historic figures mixed on in. It's all fun enough.
Tabetha Leazott
5 stars? I'm worried if people are giving this book 5 stars. I love historical fiction. I love when characters come alive but...
This book was disjointed and did not flow. There were a lot of lose ties at the end; characters just left out there.
I will say that it was humerus! I liked the author's humor but it was buried.
Erika Schmid
Honestly, I thought I would enjoy this book far more than I actually did. It had every element, history and magic together into one story, and yet it lacked a great deal. Taking place in the mid 16th century in France with Catherine de Medici as Queen and Nostradamus reading her fortune, both are taken into the life of Sibille. As the begrudging owner of the head of Menander, the Master of All Desires, Sibille is forced to leave her peaceful life of poetry to bend to the wishes of the Queen with ...more
Dona Krueger
Jan 16, 2011 Dona Krueger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very strange historical novel, using Nostradamas as the vehicle to tie Mary, queen of Scots, the French Court and many of the predictions made by Nostradamas. Giving the reason why he was able to have this gift, or curse, and the beginning of the killing of protestants in France. Having read London, I began to understand the enormous influx of French protestants to England during Queen Elizabeth the First's reign. Extremely interesting way of writing. I would like to read Judith Riley's other ...more
The Master of All Desires is many things: historical fiction, fantasy, humour. It contains murder attempts, affairs of honour, revenge, greed, court life, love potions, a small monkey and a large dog, and buffoonery at the spa. Recognizable characters include Catherine de Medici, Mary of Scots and Nostradamus. Despite the title, however, it is not a sexy book though there is some romance.

The story is set in the netherworld of sorcerers and spirits and the odious head of Menander, the master of a
Dec 10, 2010 Whitaker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Dominique Lamssies
Another wonderful historical piece from Judith Merkle Riley, but with this book I started to see her pattern. Her heroines tend to be social misfits cast out of their families and have physical deformities, but are super intellegent. If you want a legitimately engaging look at Riley at the top of her game, stick with The Oracle Glass. This book tries too hard to cram in a bunch of unnecessary historical figures.

However, anyone with a really dark sense of humor will LOVE this book. This book is r
Jun 25, 2014 Suzan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh....this is one of those books for me. Lovely plot, interesting plot, so much potential but it really needed some editing. While I love description and am a huge fan of Dickens, this book just didn't know when to quit. Plus, the story wasn't told as much through dialogue as it was through the author explaining everything. It took me 100 pages to even get into the book and then it was sooo turgid, I had trouble with the remaining pages. The ending was mercifully shortened. With some heavy hande ...more
Mar 17, 2015 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a zippy, fun read. The cover description makes it seem much more serious than it is- this book is essentially a dark comedy, and Judith Merkle Riley's signature dry with shines through.

The Master of All Desires paints a portrait of the age of Catherine de Medici. Our heroine is Sibille, the sensitive, poetic black sheep of her family. Through a series of unfortunate events she is swept up in court intrigue, becoming acquainted with Catherine de Medici. All the characters are connected t
Stevie Carroll
Sep 11, 2013 Stevie Carroll rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Previously reviewed on The Good the Bad and the Unread:

One of the great joys of being offered books to review is finding authors who are new to me, even if (as here and in another recent case) the authors are not only splendid, but also sadly now deceased. On the other hand, Judith Merkle Riley wrote six novels in her all too short career and this is my first encounter with any of them, so it would seem I have much to look forward to yet. This book is hard to categorise, and will probably also
Katie Hamstead
Dec 28, 2013 Katie Hamstead rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, arc
This book is set during the reign of Henry II of France. You start by meeting his slighted queen, who is understandably upset about him blowing her off for his elderly mistress. The history of this story revolves mostly around these royals and their children. I have to admit, I really wanted to see his manipulative mistress get hers all the way through.
The "main" plot revolves around Sibille. I loved Sibille all the way through. She lived a life of unfortunate events, but had a good nature. So e
It is 1556 in Paris - capital of a country on teh brink of a civil war. Queen Catherine de Medeci's astrologer, the prophet Nostradamus, has divined a dreadful secret: To get rid of her husband's mistress, the queen is trying to obtain the Undying Head of Menander, the Master of All Desires. Her plans are threatened by a spirited young poet, Sibille Artaud de la Roque, who has come into possession of Menander and is tempted to fulfill her own desires first. But only Nostradamus knows that a spre ...more
Apr 18, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book had a little bit of everything: history, intrigue, romance and humor. I loved the attitude of the master of all desires: Menander, the head that wouldn't die. Nostradamus also played a role in the story. I was intimidated at first because there were many historical figures to remember: 3 pages worth at the beginning, in fact. Once I decided I didn't have to memorize them, I just starting reading and was immediately pulled in to the story. I liked that the story was told from many diffe ...more
Jul 21, 2012 Sherri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
@#$%!I just wrote what was probably the best review I ever wrote and by one keystroke deleted the whole thing.

Let me say this was a great, wonderful book, better than most, if not all of the books on the bestseller lists. It has Nostradamus, Catherine di Medici, Diane de Poitiers, intrigue, double crosses, a house filled with the ghosts of a dead pirate's victims, and a living severed head that grants disastrous wishes to its owner. The heroine shoots her betrothed with a blunderbuss but unfort
Oct 02, 2013 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Starts great and ends great, but the middle leaves something to be desired. This is a book that I should have enjoyed more than I did. It has all the ingredients to be a lot of fun - French history, Nostradamus, an undying talking mummified head who grants wishes with an evil twist, and two people fighting for love against all odds. The book begins very strong, but then it sort of loses its way. There are a good 100 or so pages in the middle where nothing much happens, the main characters are ra ...more
Apr 30, 2014 Mikki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this very much. Riley has the ability to inject humor into her historical fiction, which adds immensely to my enjoyment. I listened to the book. It was difficult at first to keep characters separate because the narrator's voice didn't seem to differentiate much from one to another. By mid-book, however, it was much easier to tell one from another. An interesting, light book!
Dec 13, 2015 Patricia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable romp through 16th century France: historically accurate, rich details of time and place, wonderful characters, including a fascinating cast of famous figures (especially Nostradamus), and an exciting story, full of satire and polished prose. I highly recommend it!!!
Dec 03, 2013 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fiction historical novel set in Paris and surroundings areas in the mid 1550's with much of the action taking place in the French royal court and the power seeking intrigues of Queen Catherine de Medici and families seeking power. Story centers on Sebille Artaud de la Roque and her messed up family who becomes involved in the court intrigues because she mistakenly gains possession of the undying head of Menander that is more than 1000 years old who is able to grant people's wishes and is known a ...more
Rachel Swords
Oct 10, 2011 Rachel Swords rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best piece of historical fiction I've read in a while. It's a great blend of reality (Catherine de Medici and Nostradamus to name two) and magic/the supernatural (Menander and Nostradamus). The plot has many entertaining twists and turns, and inevitably everyone ends up in either the expected places at the end or receives a happy ending. Emotions and actions run the gauntlet here, to the point where readers won't be disappointed. All of the characters are fairly believable; the story's heroi ...more
Patrick Bättig
Nostradamus hilft Liebespaar einen Schrumpfelmagierkopf der ihr Verdeben zum Ziel hat loszuwerden. Spielt in Frankreich um 1560
Victoria Maxwell
I really liked this book, but will warn it is a bit "darker" than this authors other books. A very enjoyable read!
Sy DeMaya
Apr 01, 2016 Sy DeMaya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely juxtaposition of innocence and courtly intrigue. It was fun to read about Nostradamus from the muse of imagination and flights of fancy that is Judith Merkle Riley.
Mar 10, 2009 Jody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far...
We have Nostrdamus, Queen Catherine de Medici, King Heri II of France, The "legenday" Undying Head of Menander the Magus, plus a love triangle that doesn't involve any of the above and i still have 1/3 of the book to go!

This one isn't a page turner, but I'm mostly reading it because the author has a very good name and I can't imagine where she is going with all this. The end was something of a suprise -it actually had a happy ending and everyone got what he/she deserved. I have another
Feb 11, 2016 Walanski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I rank it between my favorite Margaret of Ashbury novels and "The Oracle Glass".
Katherine Spivey
Feb 03, 2016 Katherine Spivey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
New take on Nostradamus and surprisingly funny.
Mar 16, 2014 craige marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended by Jen.
Erin Duffy
Jun 07, 2016 Erin Duffy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Delightful! The end was a little long, but not enough to knock off a star.
Ngarui Pasene
Jul 05, 2014 Ngarui Pasene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my faves!!
the sheer glee IS infectious, by golly. “Never again, he resolved. Even to save France. France can be saved by mail.”
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 May 07, 2016 10:55AM  
  • The Serpent and the Moon: Two Rivals for the Love of a Renaissance King
  • Blood Royal
  • The Courtier's Secret
  • The Courtesan (The Dark Queen Saga, #2)
  • Banners of Silk
  • Dear Heart, How Like You This?
  • Now Face to Face (Tamworth Saga, #3)
  • Beloved Enemy: The Passions of Eleanor of Aquitaine
  • Imperial Purple
  • Rhinegold
  • The Mercy Seller (Illuminator, #2)
  • Sunrise on the Mediterranean (Time Travel, #3)
  • Kathryn in the Court of Six Queens
  • The Secret Wife of King George IV
  • The Queen's Handmaiden
  • The Tree People
  • Reluctant Queen
  • Duchess of Milan
Judith Astria Merkle was born on January 14, 1942 in Brunswick, Maine and grew up in Livermore, California, U.S.A. Her great-grandfather was a Swiss emigrant, who moved to the United States in 1860. Her uncle-abue was the famous player of baseball Fred Merkle. Her father, Theodore Charles Merkle was contralador of the Project Pluto and her brother Ralph C. Merkle is technological professor in a Co ...more
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