Excerpt from The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Malice of Fortune

by Michael Ennis

The Malice of Fortune
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2012, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2013, 416 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


I did not have to be carried far, just around two corners. Once we entered your grandfather's apartments, I even knew precisely which of these lavishly frescoed rooms would witness my travail. Called the Hall of Saints, it was empty save for a few chairs and sideboards; in the center remained a brazier, a small intarsia table and a single armchair, upholstered in scarlet velvet embroidered with little gold bulls, the symbol of your family.

Once I was tied upon this throne, I quickly received my first visitor, your grandfather's master of artillery, Lorenzo Beheim--he of the treatises on dark magic and procedures to summon Satan. Beheim carried a wooden box such as physicians haul about. Placing this item on the table beside me, he opened it so that I could admire instruments that indeed looked like those used to explore the womb and extract a reluctant infant--tongs, hooks, picks, and pliers. As he brought the brazier closer, no doubt for his convenience when heating these devices, the reek of burning charcoal invaded my nostrils.

Having completed these preparations, he left.

Yet I was not entirely alone. The upper walls all around me were framed by massive gilded arches, and the painter Pinturrichio had filled each of the half-moon-shaped lunettes with tales of saints, their legends portrayed as extravagant ceremonies teeming with spectators. My chair had been placed so that I could look up at the lunette opposite the window, upon which the enormousDisputation of St. Catherine of Alexandria had been painted in gorgeous peacock hues.

This view allowed me to renew my acquaintance with some of your grandfather's bastards. You see, Pinturrichio used all sorts of people at your grandfather's court as models for the characters in this tale, though in the short years since he finished his labor, time and Fortune has altered so much about them. At the center of this glorious pageant was St. Catherine, presenting her defense of the Christian faith to the Emperor Maximinus and his colloquy of scholars. St. Catherine was a perfect likeness of your aunt Lucrezia, the present Duchess of Ferrara, her hair falling in flaxen waves, her puckered mouth as red as a cherry, her cerulean gaze fixed on a dream. This portrait was more real than life, because when I knew Lucrezia, if ever she was caught in a momentary thought, she would at once show her perfect teeth, a smile intended to draw one's attention from the desperate hope in her eyes.

In my worst fears, my darling, you have come to know Lucrezia's expression; but if this is so, then perhaps you have an image in an imperfect mirror of your Mama. Because it was often said, in those years when I was familiar with your family, that I looked enough like Madonna Lucrezia to be her older sister. I never thought so; your aunt's nose was smaller, her forehead less broad, her eyes a lighter tint. But perhaps now I share with your aunt Lucrezia the same sorrowful hope.

No less real than Lucrezia's portrait were the two figures at opposite sides of the scene. Your grandfather had intended his most cherished son, Juan Borgia, the Duke of Gandia, to serve as the model for the Emperor Maximinus. But Pinturrichio's vision had been less clouded by sentiment and he instead made another bastard son, Cesare Borgia, the face of this all-powerful sovereign. At the time the painting was done, Cesare had been twenty years old; he was still a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church and he still had his sister Lucrezia's delicate beauty. Yet Pinturrichio had given him a peculiar gaze, the dark green eyes staring down and away, fixed on something that could not be bound within the picture, as if Cesare were peering into a realm even the painter could not imagine.

Opposite Cesare, on the other end of the wall, Pinturrichio had placed Juan in the guise of a Turkish sultan, the sort of costume this most beloved son had indeed favored in life, a great linen turban around his head, his cape and loose trousers a tapestry of Oriental patterns. Juan was darker than his siblings--Cesare and Lucrezia are quite fair-complected--and in this portrait his gaze is predatory, a falcon's angry yet wary stare. In life, if Juan ever looked thus, it was a pose.

Excerpted from The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis. Copyright © 2012 by Michael Ennis. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The House of Borgia

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Certain Age
    A Certain Age
    by Beatriz Williams
    Lovers of high-society gossip, there's a new set of players in town. A good 20 out of 23 of our...
  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...
  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Imperial Wife
    by Irina Reyn

    A smart, engaging novel that parallels two fascinating worlds and two singular women.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson

    "Starred Review. Sensitive, beautifully precise prose. Highly recommended." - PW

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Sweet Caress
by William Boyd

William Boyd's Sweet Caress captures an entire lifetime unforgettably within its pages. It captivates.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!