Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Julie's Review: The Book of Unholy Mischief

Summary: 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?

Julie's Review: I loved this book. I loved it from the first page. Ms. Newmark has a way with words and they way she puts them together is magic. Which is good, since her book deals with magic aka alchemy. This is probably the 2nd book I've read this year that talks about alchemy and I find it very intriguing, especially in this setting. I also love how she weaves in food and how it can affect some one's mind, body and soul. (Jenn - I think you'd love this book). Luciano is the main character and he's quite the charmer. He's innocent but has had a hard life. He knows the streets well but he has to learn how to operate in a palace environment. I also loved Chef Ferrero. I could picture him in my mind and loved that he thought of Luciano as a "son". It was delightful to read about the mentor/pupil relationship that had much more affection to it than you would normally keep.

Ms. Newmark does an excellent job of making Venice a character in it's own right. One day I will make it there, I swear!! The politics of Venice, Rome and Italy is another interesting aspect of the book and sometimes felt like it could be plucked out of today's society. We also have "The Book" that everyone is after and no one know where to find. It's shrouded in such secrecy you wonder if it even exists or if it made up to keep those who want busy while the intellectuals quietly take over.

The book is about gaining knowledge, learning what to do with the knowledge and growing from that knowledge. It's also about learning who trust, who should have/earn your trust.

I'm definitely not doing The Book of Unholy Mischiefany justice in my review, so instead just go get yourself a copy and read it! Especially if you love: Italy, Historical Fiction, Mysteries and Coming of Age stories.

This is one of my favorite thoughts/quotes in the book. Chef Ferrero speaking to Luciano:

"We all die, but we all leave something behind. We achieve immortality by passing on knowledge." page 276

I also must note that not only is the cover gorgeous but the inside of the hardcover has the most beautiful renderings of fruits and vegetables. They look good enough to eat.

Fans of both Sarah Addison Allen and/or Sarah Dunant will love this book.

A special thanks to Tracee at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for getting me on the Virtual Book tour for this one!!

Julie's Final Take: 4.75/5


Anita August 2, 2009 at 5:01 PM  

I must get my hands on this book!

Jenn August 7, 2009 at 3:24 PM  

Thanks, Jules. I'll put it on my TBR list! :D

Elle Newmark September 15, 2010 at 2:06 PM  

Thank you for the lovely review! I'm so glad you enjoyed my book, and you really GOT it! I'm so tired of people making silly comparisons to The Da Vinci Code, but you got exactly what it's about.

It's been a pleasure to visit your blog and I hope to visit again with my new book, The Sandalwood Tree, out in April 2011.

See you then,
Elle Newmark

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