Blood & Beauty: The Borgias - Sarah Dunant As you know, every once in a while I will find myself veering from my usual pattern of reading mostly sci-fi and fantasy and venture into the realm of historical fiction. I admittedly will do this for any interesting looking books about European royals or powerful families, especially those related to either the Tudors or the Borgias. Hence, this book.

Blood & Beauty focuses the Borgia family roughly between the years of 1492 when patriarch Rodrigo Borgia first began his papacy as Pope Alexander VI, and 1502 when his daughter Lucrezia Borgia married her third husband Alfonso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara. With scandals and rumors aplenty, this was an eventful decade for the notorious family, but also for the rest of Europe as well with their wars and ruthless politics.

First of all, I think that the author made a very brave choice when it came to using the third person omniscient point of view to narrate the story, even though there were both positive and negative sides to this. In getting to know the thoughts and feelings of all the characters in this novel, Sarah Dunant managed to convey the sweeping influence of the Borgias and acquaint us with practically everyone in the family. On the downside, because we don't get to focus on any one POV for long, the connections the reader has with the characters also feel impersonal and distant.

This last point wasn't much helped by the long sections of historical context and fact-dumping that were pervasive throughout the chapters, bogging down many parts of this book. This also made the novel feel more emphatic towards historical events rather than the characters, when I usually prefer it to be the other way around. On the other hand, this allowed us to see the bigger picture outside the personal dramas of the family, shedding light upon the political turmoil in other parts of Europe.

However, at times I felt like I was reading a dramatized history textbook. I would have preferred more emphasis on the characters; though, of all of them, Lucrezia did come across to me as the most well-rounded and fleshed-out Borgia. Still, Sarah Dunant pretty much played it safe with the rest when it comes to the exploration and interpretation of their personalities, and I wouldn't have minded if she'd pushed it a bit further. I'm usually okay when historical fiction writers take liberties, as long as those liberties aren't completely outlandish and mentioned in an author's note.

Anyway, no doubt this period of time was very interesting when it came to the Borgias, but history does show us that the fun doesn't end there. It's why I was glad to hear that Sarah Dunant's already preparing a follow-up novel to this one. This is the first time I've read anything by her, and despite some minor issues I had with Blood & Beauty, I did enjoy it. I would be absolutely open to picking up the next book.

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