Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn

One powerful family holds a city, a faith, and a woman in its grasp--from the national bestselling author of "Daughters of Rome" and "Mistress of Rome."

Rome, 1492. The Holy City is drenched with blood and teeming with secrets. A pope lies dying and the throne of God is left vacant, a prize awarded only to the most virtuous--or the most ruthless. The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web...
Vivacious Giulia Farnese has floor-length golden hair and the world at her feet: beauty, wealth, and a handsome young husband. But she is stunned to discover that her glittering marriage is a sham, and she is to be given as a concubine to the ruthless, charismatic Cardinal Borgia: Spaniard, sensualist, candidate for Pope--and passionately in love with her.
Two trusted companions will follow her into the Pope's shadowy harem: Leonello, a cynical bodyguard bent on bloody revenge against a mysterious killer, and Carmelina, a fiery cook with a past full of secrets. But as corruption thickens in the Vatican and the enemies begin to circle, Giulia and her friends will need all their wits to survive in the world of the Borgias.

No need to recap what the book is about, you can read that above.

All my audio reads are usually in first person narrative, it feels like the protagonist is with me telling her/his story.  This book had three key players. Giulia, Leonello and Carmelina were all brought to life by 3 wonderful readers.  They had the right accents, and each told their story clearly and with the right amount of wit and emotions.

They couldn't tell their stories without Kate Quinn doing an excellent job of writing them. She was able to mix fact with fiction and made me fall in love with those three, they were written in such a way that made me feel for their different circumstances. From Giulia's hurt and disappointment on her wedding night to Carmelina's first impression of Rome with the smells (rot - maybe you need the audio to appreciate her reaction). From romance to murder, mystery to corruption and betrayal to friendships, this book had it all. 

Set in a time in history that I was unfamiliar with it was a joy to take this ride with Giulia, Leonello and Carmelina.  I've heard of the Borgia's before and how corrupt they were and this book has me wanting to learn more. The cultural side during that time period was interesting and informative also,  I especially enjoyed the cooking aspect of the novel.

I finished this book with an urgent need to bake a torte and am now toying with the ideal of rereading The Iliad. Also wondering when the companion cookbook is coming out.

 The sequel, The Lion and the Rose, is scheduled to be released  Jan 7, 2014 (Canada/US),  and you can pre order at Amazon  and Book Depository (I have).

Definitely 5 stars from me!


  1. Any book that makes you want to reread the Iliad is great with me! (I write fiction set in the Trojan War). But actually I'm a big fan of Kate's Roman books and am glad to hear you love her new historical adventures. Can't wait to read this one.

  2. Oh this one sounds really good. I can't wait to read it. Glad you liked it.