Michael's Reviews > April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici

April Blood by Lauro Martines
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Mar 13, 2010

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bookshelves: 2000s, history
Read from March 13 to 29, 2010

So, this is book number 2 in my epic quest to learn as much as possible about life in the fifteenth century. (I'm broadening my goals: Italy won't be the only place I research.) If you have any recommendations, please shoot them my way.

"April Blood" is the story about the political climate, and the political fallout, surrounding the attempted double murder of Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici that happened on Easter Sunday, 1478. The subject is fascinating because Lorenzo was essentially pulling the strings of Florence's government, despite the fact that Florence was a republic with a constantly shifting group of people in power.

This book falls slightly into the Anti-Medici camp--that is, he paints the Medici in a mostly negative light. (It isn't that hard to do.) "Medici Money" by Tim Parks has a much more even-handed approach to the Medici, and it's nice to see the family from both these points of view. However. . . well, they were douche bags, weren't they? I mean, political intrigue was pretty rampant in the city anyway, but the Medici made it practically a dictatorship.

It's fascinating to see a republic where, to the outsider, everything seems to be fairly equal and unbiased, yet a small group of the wealthiest men are really controlling every decision... whereas here in the US, it's a group of the wealthiest men AND WOMEN. Ah. Progress.

Some sections of this book were fascinating. Martines includes a few letters discussing potential brides. One was written from a mother to her son, and describes the physical appearance of the bride in cruel, excrutiating detail. She then goes on to discuss the significance of the woman's familial ties, and the potential assets she might bring. She then mentions the dowery she expects the bride to come with. All this goes on for several pages. Finally, in the last sentence of the letter, she offhandedly mentions the girl's name.

Much of the political intrigue went a bit over my head since Martines takes it for granted that you have a fair amount of knowledge going into the book. Savonarola, a fire and brimstone priest who was quite an exciting character, is brought into the story without any background or context. He doesn't even mention the guy was a priest and just begins discussing his political dealings. If I hadn't just read Tim Powers's book, I would've had no idea what he was talking about. Unfortunately, much of the time I HADN'T heard of the people, and this made parts of the book carry much less impact than the author intended them to. My eyes glazed over on occasion and I thought about switching to Joe Abercrombie (the other book I was reading at the time).

So, I don't regret choosing this book, although it wasn't as clear or entertaining as "Medici Money." I did like the fact that Martines didn't hide his impression of the Medicis, and I definitely agree with his perspective. I mean, Lorenzo was a money-obsessed banker who also wanted total control of his city and was willing to exile entire family lines to get it.

If you have a little background in Florence during this time period, this is a four-star book. If you don't have any background, though, it's a three, or maybe a two. The subject is fascinating, but the book could've been a lot easier to follow with about 100 pages more detail clarifying the people and the culture.

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Reading Progress

03/21/2010 page 189
10/11/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Tracy (new) - added it

Tracy Did you mean "Medici Money" by Tim Parks? I can not find any Florence book by Tim Powers.

Michael Ah, thanks for the catch, Tracy, that's exactly what I meant!

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