Reviews for Blood & Beauty : The Borgias

Booklist Reviews 2013 April #2
Chapter 1 of Dunant's latest historical feast opens on August 11, 1492, with the people of Rome rejoicing, "We have a pope!" The cardinal, who has just been elevated to the papal throne after five days of voting by the College of Cardinals, is a Spaniard by the name of Rodrigo Borgia, who chooses to reign as Pope Alexander VI. Thus is inaugurated a highly dramatic period in papal, Italian, and even European history as the Borgia family--the pope and his bastard children, two sons and one daughter, unhidden as such--extend their influence well beyond the confines of ecclesiastical matters to exert power within the Italian peninsula exactly as would a powerful royal dynasty heavily involved in the politics of the day. Pope Alexander, who reveled in the physical attractiveness and mental vitality of his three illegitimate, now full-grown children, used them as pawns to strengthen his personal hand within the papacy and further afield, "becoming stronger and more potent in their presence." As the eldest son, the infamous Cesare, says, "There have been none like us before. And there will be none like us afterwards." For those who find Hilary Mantel's brilliant Tudor novels too deep and demanding, Dunant offers less rigorous, more comfortable historical fiction. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The author of The Birth of Venus (2004) is being accorded a vigorous publicity campaign for her latest novel, which will include lots of media focus. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2013 July
The Borgia family in full color

Sarah Dunant has visited the turbulent beauty of the Italian Renaissance before, in rich historical novels like The Birth of Venus. With Blood & Beauty, she returns to this fascinating era, but this time she’s trained her acute storytelling eye on real historical figures: one of Europe’s most infamous families, the Borgias.

Turning the lives of people who actually inhabit the pages of history into a compelling, dazzling fictional narrative is a new challenge for Dunant, but she rises to it beautifully. Filled with rich detail and page-turning drama, Blood & Beauty is an ambitious and bravura new work from a powerful voice in historical fiction.

Beginning with the election of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander VI in 1492, Dunant charts 10 years of turbulent, romantic and often chaotic Borgia rule in Europe. As a Spanish clergyman surrounded by Italians, famous as much for his wealth and the love of his illegitimate children as for his statue in the church, Alexander knows he must be shrewd and smart if he is to bend Europe to his will. To satisfy his unceasing desire for power amid the ever-turbulent politics of a divided Italian peninsula, he turns to his two most famous children, the warrior Cesare and the charming Lucrezia, key to the future of his dynasty.

The most striking thing about Blood & Beauty is how unreservedly Dunant luxuriates in the pageantry and drama of the period. She labored to strip away some of the centuries’ worth of propaganda and rumors surrounding the Borgia family with this novel, and she succeeds in that, but she also never shies from draping the work in gorgeous prose. The bombast and the high stakes of this story come to vivid life with every word. [Tue Sep 2 10:27:45 2014] Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\ line 249. It’s a refreshingly unrestrained treatment of the genre, and it makes the tale all the more engaging.

Perfect for readers who love danger, romance and lots of palace intrigue, Blood & Beauty is a triumph on an epic scale. Dunant takes us deep into this gorgeous but often deadly world, and we never want to leave. Lucky for us, the epilogue notes that she’s already planning another Borgia book.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 June #1
The big, bad Borgia dynasty undergoes modern reconsideration in the best-selling British author's epic new biofiction. Eclipsing her earlier period novels in scope, Dunant's (Sacred Hearts, 2009, etc.) latest is an impressively confident, capable sweep through the corrupt politics and serpentine relationships of a legendary family. Marshaling a mass of material, including contemporary research, Dunant delivers a colorful, sensual and characteristically atmospheric account of Rodrigo Borgia's ascent to the papacy as Alexander VI in 1492 and his subsequent tireless efforts to build a power base through the strategic use of his four children. Cesare is the sly, shrewd son, a match for his father in guile but with a colder heart, who moves ruthlessly from cardinal to soldier as politics and advancement dictate. Beloved daughter Lucrezia makes one strategic marriage after another while nursing a powerful attachment to Cesare. Two more sons play similarly useful roles, forging alliances. The politics are complicated, but Dunant's clear account is balanced by oddly affectionate character portraits informed by her interest in the psychology of these larger-than-life figures. Closing at a bittersweet moment that fuses family fortunes and realpolitik, the author promises a second volume. Dunant's biggest and best work to date, this intelligently readable account of formative events and monster players has Hilary Mantel–era quality best-seller stamped all over it. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 February #2

Dunant is celebrated for absorbing historicals like The Birth of Venus, set mostly in Italy and luxuriating in its arts and culture, but she has also won a silver dagger for her crime fiction. So she seems a natural to tell the story of the bloody Borgias. Here, while limning Cesare, Machiavelli's model prince, she focuses on Lucrezia's journey from innocence to world-weary political savvy. Conveniently available just as fans are coming off the third season of Showtime's The Borgias.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 June #1

The time is the late 15th century, and the Borgias are on the rise. Italy is a chaotic tangle of loosely joined city-states, caught between the rule of the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, where power and wealth are the spoils of those ruthless enough to take them. What some would consider criminal behavior, the Borgias consider massaging the situation to their advantage. From church law to social law, no rule is so unbreakable as to stop the family in its quest for power. The fourth novel from the best-selling author of The Birth of Venus casts the spotlight on the ruthless Rodrigo Borgia--also known as Pope Alexander VI--and his children's activities, from eldest son Cesare's ice-cold political machinations to daughter Lucrezia's three marriages of convenience, in the name of familial strategy. VERDICT Hilary Mantel fans and historical fiction readers in general looking for another meaty novel won't want to miss Dunant's latest. [See Prepub Alert, 1/21/13.]--Leigh Wright, Bridgewater, NJ

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