Summary and book reviews of The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis

The Malice of Fortune

by Michael Ennis

The Malice of Fortune
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2012, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2013, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

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Book Summary

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 pope’s 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 Valentino’s eccentric military engineer, Leonardo da Vinci, who together must struggle to decipher the killer’s 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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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 Members Only (609 words).

Media Reviews

USA Today

Ennis is an uncommonly graceful writer and a conscientious researcher… his story zips along, a pleasure.

Entertainment Weekly

A hefty novel about the politics of 16th-century Italy [that] reads like a pulpy mystery… A thrilling whodunit—and a pretty good primer on da Vinci’s ‘science of observation’ as well as Machiavelli’s ‘science of man

Christian DuChateau, CNN

Ennis bring[s] multiple layers of authenticity to his epic novel. It’s a heady mix of “The Da Vinci Code,” Borgia politics and “The Silence of the Lambs.” Think of it as CSI: Italy circa 1502, with Machiavelli as a detective and psychological profiler and da Vinci as history’s first forensic pathologist.

Time Out Chicago

An intricate murder mystery and political thriller [with] a heartrending love story… Like the best historical fiction, the novel transports the reader entirely elsewhere.

The Denver Post

Intricate… rewarding…The novel works not just because it is a finely wrought history but because the characters are of their time while transcending it.

Booklist

Intriguing [and] well-researched ... Having Machiavelli cast in the role of what Ennis calls 'history's first forensic profiler' will satisfy those who come for the period ambience.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. This is a dense narrative, permeated by the sights, sounds and smells of Renaissance Italy, and one that can stand shoulder to shoulder with Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, with which it is sure to be compared.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Brilliant...absorbing and intelligent...Fans of superior historical mystery writers such as Steven Saylor and Laura Jo Rowland will be enthralled.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Brilliant...absorbing and intelligent...Fans of superior historical mystery writers such as Steven Saylor and Laura Jo Rowland will be enthralled.

Author Blurb Lyndsay Faye, author of Gods of Gotham and Dust and Shadows
The Malice of Fortune is more than a thriller--it's a tender love story, a grim exploration of the nature of human evil, and an immersive tour of Renaissance Italy as courageous, perceptive young Niccolo Machiavelli fights for his life against ruthless Borgia factions. A novel written with gusto, panache, and intellectual rigor.

Author Blurb Anne Fortier, author of Juliet
A true masterpiece... Michael Ennis has poured the knowledge and wisdom of many lifetimes into the exquisite form of a mystery so dark, so labyrinthine. The Malice of Fortune is stunning, terrifying, and utterly mesmerizing. I can honestly say I never fully appreciated the genius of Machiavelli, or the savagery of the Borgias, until now.

Author Blurb Glenn Cooper, author of Library of the Dead and Book of Souls
For readers who've been waiting all these years for the next The Name of the Rose—here it is. Michael Ennis brings a scholar’s mind and a writer’s heart to this beautifully crafted work of Renaissance intrigue that has a rare quality of feeling ancient and modern at the same time. A powerful thinking-man’s thriller.

Author Blurb Douglas Preston, co-author of The Monster of Florence
This is a fascinating novel, filled with extraordinary, well-realized historical characters and a plot that is engrossing and wickedly clever. The Malice of Fortune is an excellent, beautifully researched, and well-written novel that has a fine, fine sense of place. It captured my attention up front and kept me turning the pages to the very end.

Author Blurb Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club and The Technologists
With its vivid, well-defined array of characters, The Malice of Fortune captures the glorious and gritty details of Renaissance Italy in a propulsive story. Ennis has achieved a great accomplishment, historical fiction that places us right into the characters' present.

Reader Reviews

Diane S.

Malice of Fortune
Set in one of my favorite periods in history, the Renaissance, Ennis delivers a fascinating story. Full of historical figures, Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and the corruptible Borgia, the reader is treated to a novel that fully immerses them in this time ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The House of Borgia

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

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, 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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