Folliesgirl14's Reviews > Leonardo's Swans

Leonardo's Swans by Karen Essex
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's review
Apr 13, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: to-reread, leo-da-vinci
Read from April 07 to 12, 2012


Oh my God, where do I start?

I couldn't have read this book at a better time. I'd just finished the rough draft of a research paper on Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine, so I found it fascinating to read about the people and places that I'd spent so much time researching.

Alright, the characters:

Isabella - Such a complex character. Scheming, cunning, yet loving, she does not want to see anything bad happen to her sister Beatrice, yet she is also extremely jealous of her sister at times. I'm pretty sure she's just Italy's answer to Anne Boleyn (but less of an evil genius).

Beatrice - If she doesn't make you smile, you have no business reading this book. The way that the author allows Beatrice to grow from a frightened girl to a strong-willed and influential duchess is simply beautiful, and I can't help but feel for her when her marriage begins to fail. I guess you could say she is like Mary Boleyn from The Other Boleyn Girl, but waaaaay less annoying.

Ludovico Sforza - Beatrice's husband, the Duke of Jerkitude (of Milan, really). He lives with his mistress AFTER he marries Beatrice, and then fathers another bastard child by a DIFFERENT mistress. Suffice to say, I wanted to punch him in the face at most points in the book. Quite possibly the Italian Henry VIII.

Cecilia Gallerani - Ludovico's first mistress. She is a very kind person whom Beatrice befriends (despite the fact that she slept with Beatrice's husband). She is also the subject of Leonardo's painting Lady with an Ermine.

Leonardo da Vinci (aka the Magistro) - Okay, let's get one thing straight: this man is a hero of mine. I was so happy whenever he appeared in the book. Karen Essex, thank you so much for not portraying Leonardo as some sort of BS Priory of Whatever person who has nothing better to do with his time than design stupid little cryptex things and vex Tom Hanks and his ridiculous hair (sorry to those of you who are DVC fans - I can't stand that book). Anyway, it's really damn hard to describe how great this character is unless you read the book, which I recommend.

In short, I loved this book. It is a much better alternative to The Other Boleyn Girl, which I tried to read and simply could not stand. The characters in Leonardo's Swans are much more likeable and complex and after researching the Renaissance I can tell you with certainty that the history is mostly accurate, and that the innacuracies that are present are incosequential. This is a highly recommended book for anyone who has an interest in art, historical fiction, Leonardo da Vinci, or the Italian Renaissance.

Have a great day,


P.S. My apologies to Philippa Gregory fans, but the comparisons were just too obvious to pass up.
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