Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Book of Unholy Mischief...Review
In a world of violence and intrigue, who guards the truth?
It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance, and Venice teems with rumors of an ancient book that holds the secret to unimaginable power. It is an alchemist's dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. Everyone, rich and poor alike, speculates about the long-buried secrets scrawled in its pages and where it could possibly be hidden within the labyrinthine city. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it.
As a storm of intrigue and desire circles the republic that grew from the sea, Luciano, a penniless orphan with a quick wit and an even faster hand, is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired, for reasons he cannot yet begin to understand, as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. There, in the lavish home of the most powerful man in Venice, he is initiated into the chef's rich and aromatic world, with all its seductive ingredients and secrets.
Luciano's loyalty to his street friends and the passion he holds for a convent girl named Francesca remain, but it is not long before he, too, is caught up in the madness. After he witnesses a shocking murder in the Palace dining room, he realizes that nothing is as it seems and that no one, not even those he's come to rely on most, can be trusted. Armed with a precocious mind and an insatiable curiosity, Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing open the shutters of his mind, inflame his deepest desires, and leave an indelible mark on his soul.
Rich with the luxurious colors and textures of Venice, The Book of Unholy Mischief delights the senses and breathes fresh life into an age defined by intellectual revival and artistic vibrancy. A luminous and seductive novel, it is, at its heart, a high-spirited tribute to the fruits of knowledge and the extraordinary power of those who hold its key. In a world of violence and intrigue, who guards the truth?
Luciano is a poor street orphan of Venice, Italy who is discovered one day by Amato Ferrer, chef to the doge of Venice. Sensing something in the boy, Chef Ferrer takes Luciano as his apprentice. As Luciano learns the way of the kitchen, he learns not only of Venetian life, but discovers mysteries in life itself, and comes to discover the essence of who he is.
The premise is fascinating: ancient books are kept by chefs known to each other as Guardians. The books are mysterious and rumors about them abound, although few actually ever discover them. The books are rumored to contain the mysteries of alchemy and recipes for the elixirs of life. The Guardians believe the church is deceiving the people and that Jesus was nothing more than a mortal teacher. They believe gospels exist which validate their beliefs, but that have been suppressed by the church and it is up to the Guardians to protect this information, which is symbolized in many of their recipes and writings.
I found myself frustrated at times by the story. The obsession that people had with finding "the book" was laughable sometimes. The story packs in a lot of commentary about history and religion amongst the descriptions of food and life. Call it hidden commentary, if you will, and I found myself wanting to mark particular thought-provoking passages, even though I was frustrated with the book. I also began to wonder how much is historical fact and how much is supposition and fiction.
I love Venice. I have fond, fond memories of visiting Venice and so I adored the setting. I love food, and love cooking, and I loved the cooking element of the story. Elle Newmark's writing is lyrical and descriptive and she has a remarkable way of portraying the vivid colors and textures of Venice during the renaissance.
As much as I loved the writing, I wanted the story to move a bit faster. I liked it and found it compelling. I didn't love it. I enjoyed it and thought it fascinating. I didn't adore it.
Thanks to Tracee at Pump Up Your Book! for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Elle Newmark here. You can purchase your own copy here. You can find other reviews and tour stops here.
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