Battista della Paglia is an art collector, a thief, and a secret agent for François, the king of France. His mission is to find the most valuable artifacts, paintings, and sculptures for the king’s growing art collection. When Battista is instructed to find a mysterious sculpture, his quest brings him into contact with a woman with a secret. This is the Lady Aurelia, who accompanies Battista on his quest to find the sculpture. Aurelia has been living under the watchful eye of the Marquess of Mantua, her guardian, and has never felt anything like the freedom and emotions she experiences with Battista. But Aurelia’s secret could put all that they’ve built together in jeopardy, should she reveal it to Battista and the world.
I was very much intrigued by this book when I first heard of it; having read and enjoyed one of Donna Russo Morin’s earlier books, I was looking forward to reading another of them. Morin’s most recent effort is not a disappointment, but is quite a creative take on Dante’s Inferno. Combined with some of the adventure from one of the author’s favorite video games, The Legend of Zelda, the book finds our two heroes thrown into some serious, death-defying situations, which may not entirely reflect real life, but which provide a lot of entertainment for the historical fiction reader. Tied in with this is a romance between our two main characters, who naturally feel themselves drawn to one another after the harrowing experiences they’ve had searching for these objects. Mainly, the book is a lot of fun, very much a historical romp, which requires the reader to let go a little bit and simply enjoy the ride.
While I did enjoy the book, I found the author’s prose a little bit hard to get into at times. It’s not necessarily a book that you can just pick up and put down again; some immersion into her world is definitely required. The main character, Battista, was a real person, and an art thief at that. One of my favorite Renaissance artists, Michelangelo, also makes a substantial appearance, as do a few of his pieces. I’m always happy to see known historical characters appear in the books I’m reading and I was pleased to see him depicted. He definitely added to the overall atmosphere. I also enjoyed Battista’s band of fellow thieves; there’s an air of male camaraderie amongst them that means we – and Aurelia – immediately fall in love with a few of them.
All in all, The King’s Agent was an enjoyable read, and a pleasurable immersion into the world of early sixteenth century Florence. Recommended for historical fiction fans who are able and willing to suspend disbelief to enjoy a fun book set in a fascinating historical world.
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