Against a teeming canvas of Borgia politics, Niccolò Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci come together to unmask an enigmatic serial 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 murder of Juan, his most beloved illegitimate son, she cannot fail, for the scheming Borgia pope holds her own young son hostage. Once there, Damiata becomes a pawn in the political intrigues of the popes surviving son, the charismatic Duke Valentino, whose own life is threatened by the condottieri, a powerful cabal of mercenary warlords. Damiata suspects that the killer she seeks is one of the brutal condottierri, and as the murders multiply, her quest grows more urgent. She enlists the help of an obscure Florentine diplomat, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Valentinos eccentric military engineer, Leonardo da Vinci, who together must struggle to decipher the killers taunting riddles:
Leonardo with his groundbreaking "science of observation" and Machiavelli with his new "science of men." Traveling across an Italy torn apart by war, they will enter a labyrinth of ancient superstition and erotic obsession to discover at its center a new face of evil - and a truth that will shake the foundations of western civilization.
To Messer Francesco Guicciardini
Lieutenant-general, statesman, and historian
9 January 1527
Magnificent One. I have sent you this great pile of pages in order to provide a more faithful account of the final weeks of the year 1502, when that plague of mercenary warlords known as the condottieriviolently conspired against Duke Valentino and his father, Pope Alexander VI. As you know, my intimate witness of those events inspired my little pamphlet, The Prince; what you do not know is that there was considerably more to the entire matter than I have ever allowed. Hence I submit to you this lengthy "confession," with the hope that you will not judge me--or attempt to write your own history--until you have read these pages entirely. Only then can you begin to grasp the terrifying nature of the secret I deliberately buried, let us say, between the lines of The Prince.
You will find here a narrative divided into four parts, all but one in my own hand. The exception is the account ...
Michael Ennis, an art historian, takes great pains with the historical and cultural authenticity of the story. If read for its historical content and characters, The Malice of Fortune is richly satisfying despite its somewhat convoluted plot.
(Reviewed by Elizabeth Whitmore Funk).
Full Review (861 words).
The Borgia name is synonymous with corruption, crime, and scandal. In Malice of Fortune, several Borgia family members play both prominent and subtle roles against the backdrop of the Renaissance papacy.
Pope Alexander VI
Born in Spain as Roderic Llançol i de Borja (Rodrigo Borgia), he studied law in Bologne before being appointed cardinal by his uncle, Pope Callixtus III. During his reign, Alexander VI became known for his illicit relationships, political corruption, and nepotism. In The Prince, Machiavelli writes that "Alexander VI did nothing but deceive men" (chapter XVIII).
Cesare, the Duke of Valentino
Cesare is believed to be Rodrigo Borgia's oldest son and his ruthless political manner is often cited as Machiavelli'...
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