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BookBrowse Reviews Leonardo's Swans by Karen Essex

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Leonardo's Swans

by Karen Essex

Leonardo's Swans by Karen Essex X
Leonardo's Swans by Karen Essex
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2006, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2007, 352 pages

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A vivid evocation of Leonardo's life during his years in the glittering court of Milan. Historical Fiction

From the book jacket: Isabella d'Este, daughter of the Duke of Ferrara, born into privilege and the political and artistic turbulence of Renaissance Italy, is a stunning black-eyed blonde and a precocious lover and collector of art. Worldly and ambitious, she has never envied her less attractive sister, the spirited but naïve Beatrice, until, by a quirk of fate, Beatrice is betrothed to the future Duke of Milan. Although he is more than twice their age, openly lives with his mistress, and is reputedly trying to eliminate the current duke by nefarious means, Ludovico Sforza is Isabella's match in intellect and passion for all things of beauty. Only he would allow her to fulfill her destiny: to reign over one of the world's most powerful and enlightened realms and be immortalized in oil by the genius Leonardo da Vinci.

Though Isabella weds the Marquis of Mantua, a man she has loved since childhood, Beatrice's fortunes rise effortlessly through her marriage to Ludovico. The two sisters compete for supremacy in the illustrious courts of Europe, and Isabella vows that she will not rest until she wrestles back her true fate and plays temptress to the sensuous Ludovico and muse to the great Leonardo. But when Ludovico's grand plan to control Europe begins to crumble, immortality through art becomes a luxury, and the two sisters must choose between familial loyalty and survival in the treacherous political climate.

Comment: If you enjoy historical fiction, and in particular books that focus on the lives of famous artists such as those by Susan Vreeland, Tracy Chevalier and especially Sarah Dunant, you should take a good look at Leonardo's Swans. The media reviews, albeit good, are not glowing - but I enjoyed it well enough and certainly recommend it to you if you have an interest in the Renaissance in general, and Leonardo da Vinci in particular.

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in January 2006, and has been updated for the January 2007 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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