The King’s Agent is set in early Florence and tells the adventures of a mysterious Lady Aurelia, who is the ward of the Marquess of Mantua and an unusual art dealer, Battista, who would go to any lengths including stealing any art piece that he needs to acquire. This travel novel describes the action-filled quest of Battista and Aurelia around Florence and Rome to find an art relic that is of high importance. This quest will not only bring them closer together but will also be a huge turning point in both their lives.
I found this book on Book Club Reading List.What sets this novel apart from all that I have read is its rich history and the manner by how the author has brought her readers to that era. I personally believe that a successful novel is one that could bring the readers to a different place. In the case of this travel novel, I wasn’t only transported to Florence and Rome. I was transported there in a different time! I really felt as though I was among the characters wearing my own gown with layers of skirts and doing curtsies.
Among all the travelling books that I have read, The King’s Agent is the most informative one. Not only did I learn about how ancient Rome and Florence looked like, I have learned a great deal about the importance of art in the early years. I have read about Michaelangelo and his famous sculptures and paintings but this is the first time I have read about his motivations when creating his masterpieces. And that made me truly appreciate art.
Here is a scene when Aurelia, an art enthusiast and adventure seeker, went to visit Florence in search of Michaelangelo’s Giant. With these highly specific and accurate descriptions of the city and the sculpture, it’s as if I was there right beside Aurelia.
At the end of a long gallery running in a straight line between matching buildings with rows of square arches, the fortresslike structure rose up as a sentinel standing watch over the city. Square, brick, and turreted, a tall, pink-stoned campanile topped the building, clearly one of importance, as cloaked and robed men came and went from its door, their own significance leading them in a rush.
And there, just to the left of the enormous black wood door, stood the famous statue. Aurelia climbed the five stone steps to bring her directly beside its base, her eyes – green with the light of the sun – rose slowly over the finely sculpted statue.
It was indeed a giant; Aurelia guessed it to be taller than three men. She did not shy away from the barbarous vulgarity of his nakedness, but found her perplexity over its formation equally as tantalizing. When she studied the face, all her uncertainties were answered, all of David’s mysteries were revealed. The face was, as she had heard, a bit large for the size of the head, but upon his features she saw all the fear, tension, and aggression the real David must have felt when attacked by the colossal Goliath. Wrinkles perforated David’s forehead, thick brows drawn together, with a scornful twist to his full lips fearful, yes, but with an inner assuredness that all evil could be felled. There was a great nobility to the man etched into immortality, a beautiful determination astounding the eye as well as the soul.
This travel book led the readers to a quest around Florence and Rome as Battista and Aurelia worked to find an important art relic that is described to have great power. Only few individuals know this mysterious relic still existed and fewer still know of its exact location. This is why their quest brings them a lot of action-filled challenges and intricate puzzles to solve – which are actually the reasons why I’m finding it difficult to put the book down.
Here is another scene when the main characters found their selves in Rome after overcoming one challenge on their quest. I don’t know how Rome looks like in this era so this scene really helped me understand the city’s history better.
“This is one of the seven great hills of Rome. From here, we may see much of the city spread out before us, a banquet at our feet, to be devoured, each delicious bite.” As they leaned into their climb, he gestured his bearded chin at the great palazzos flanking the broad lane. “If you look closely at some of the surrounding grounds, you may see the protrusion of ancient ruins, those built by the Sabines.”
They came to the summit and he led them into a small circular cobbled piazza, open on both north and south sides, a petite fountain at its center, the small cherub dribbling water stingily from its overturned vessel. As a haze of sunshine struggled through thinning cloud cover, the splendor of Rome created a sparkling vista.
Aurelia could not breathe for the beauty of it; everywhere she sent her gaze it landed upon triumphs of architecture and antiquity, grandeur enticing visitors to this city from the world over; temples, chapels, arches, and palaces.
Aside from the setting, action-filled challenges, and puzzles, there is an interesting twist near the end of the novel that you wouldn’t see coming. This is what made this travel novel complete, like a missing part of a puzzle – you wouldn’t know something’s missing until you get to that last piece.
For this travel novel review, I give this book three beach umbrellas for bringing me to ancient Rome and Florence and making me want to wear layers of evening gown. I recommend this book for all those who want to learn more about the ancient and rich history of Rome.
About the Author
Donna Russo Morin’s passion for the written word began when she was a child, took on a feminist edge as she grew through the sixties, and blossomed into a distinctive style of action-filled historical fiction at a defining moment in her life. With two degrees from the University of Rhode Island, the state in which she was born and raised, Donna’s first book, The Courtier’s Secret (2009) won RWI-RWA’s Best First Book Award and was a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Award. The Secret of the Glass (2010), her second book, received a Single Titles Reviewers’ Choice Award and was a finalist in the USA Best Books of the Year Contest. Also a recipient of a Single Titles Reviewers’ Choice Award and a finalist in the USA Best Books of the Year Contest, Donna’s third Book, To Serve a King (2011), was a finalist in Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award as well. The King’s Agent (2012), Donna’s latest release, received a coveted starred review in Publishers Weekly. Donna is currently at work on a major trilogy set in Florence at the height of the Renaissance. Donna lives near the beauty shoreline of Rhode Island with her two sons, Devon and Dylan, her greatest works in progress.