Review: Lucrezia Borgia: A Novel

Lucrezia Borgia: A Novel
Lucrezia Borgia: A Novel by John Faunce
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read a good deal of reviews for this book, most of which were actually terrifying. In dedication to my quest to read all Borgia novels before I present my own, I went ahead and read this one anyway.

At the very least, it was entertaining. Had it not been a historical novel, it might have actually had the potential to be good. Unfortunately, what we ended up with was a historical novel that wanted desperately to be contemporary.

As far as historical accuracy goes, don’t expect any. There’s more historical accuracy in Assassin’s Creed Revelations than there is in this book, which isn’t saying much, because the Assassin Creed games are extremely well-researched. To put it another way, it makes Showtime’s series look like a historical documentary. I don’t have a copy of the book to point out specific instances of historical inaccuracies in terms of actual content, but I do remember a few unintentionally hilarious moments in which the context was historically inaccurate.

First of all, there was Lucrezia referring to the cardinal hat as a crimson beanie. It really happened. Even more jarring was when she described her maid as being “unabashedly homosexual.” Sweetie, no. People weren’t just unabashedly homosexual, especially poor people like maids. There was this little thing called execution that would happen to you if you were found guilty of sodomy. And the only way you could get out of it was if you had some sort of influence, and even then you were to be discreet in your affairs. There was no such thing as unabashedly homosexual.

Perhaps the most jarring scene however was when Lucrezia defended Alfonso of Naples against the assassins sent by her brother. Not because she picked up a sword or even because she fought them naked, but because the whole naked thing actually worked as a distraction. I mean, the whole plan was her naked body would prove enough of a distraction that she would then have time to kill them. The problem with this is that you would think that the men in question had never seen boobs before, despite the fact that people shared public baths. Yup, it happened. Oh, except for the last guard, who was gay, and in turn had no obsession with her body. So she strips her husband bare for him, you know, like he had never seen another naked man before. Then the magic happens. She actually manages to cleave the man in half diagonally. A lithe woman with no military training. To quote Naevia: “It is no easy thing, to cleave a man’s head from his shoulders in one blow.” Let alone cut him in half diagonally.

Had I not been so dedicated to the cause of reading all the Borgia novels, I think I would have listened to the reviews and given this one a pass. As it happens, this one reads as a gas bubble in a pool that is hilarious in hindsight as you try to convince everyone else that it wasn’t you.

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