Monday, April 16, 2012

REVIEW: The King's Agent by Donna Russo Morin

Synopsis: To the casual observer, Battista della Palla is an avid art collector, or perhaps a nimble thief. In reality, the cunning Italian is an agent for François, the King of France, for whom he procures the greatest masterpieces of the day by any means necessary. Embroiled in a power struggle with Charles V, the King of Spain, François resolves to rule Europe's burgeoning cultural world. When he sets his sights on a mysterious sculpture, Battista's search for the elusive objet d'art leads him to a captivating woman on a mission of her own. . .

Having spent her life under the controlling eye of her protector, the Marquess of Mantua, Aurelia longs for freedom. And she finds it in Battista. Together, they embark on a journey to find the clues that will lead him to the sculpture-- a venture so perilous it might have spilled from the pen of Dante himself. From the smoldering depths of Rome to a castle in the sky, the harrowing quest draws them inextricably together. But Aurelia guards a dark secret that could tear them apart--and change the course of history. . .

My Thoughts: The King's Agent by Donna Russo Morin takes the reader on a captivating adventure through the streets of Renaissance Florence and Rome.  The beautiful Lady Aurelia is a mystery-a woman who has been kept in the care of the Marquess of Mantua all of her life and who longs to get out and see the world.  Battista della Palla is a handsome art dealer who steals his priceless merchandise when he can't come by it honestly.  The fates of these two collide and become inseparable when Aurelia comes to Battista's aide and both are set on the path of a grand enterprise that will prove dangerous, sorrowful, and lead to an outcome that is totally unexpected.

I absolutely loved the spirit of this novel.  It was fun, interesting, and left me guessing on several points all the way to the end.  As I have said in previous reviews, I love when a book can surprise me or when I think I have it all figured out only to realize I don't.  The fun begins when Battista receives a commission from the King of France to find a sculpture said to contain immense power.  The key to locating the sculpture lies in the writings of the great Italian poet Dante and a series of paintings.  This book reminded me a bit of the Da Vinci Code or the National Treasure movies in this respect.  As with those movies the quest and the thought processes the characters go through to complete it are a little out there. Personally, I didn't mind this at all because I was completely caught up in it all and especially in the deepening bond between Battista and Aurelia. Aiding the two in their mission are the famed artist Michelangelo, and Battista's band of men including the loyal Frado.  Throughout the novel Aurelia is shown to be a noble person but there was always an air of mystery surrounding her given how little of her background we get.

Although I really enjoyed the storyline surrounding Battista and Aurelia searching for the paintings and sculpture I wish there had been more information on the politics of the time.  I would have enjoyed a more detailed account of the Italian Wars since they were such an important part of the story and also the sack of Rome.  Also, I did really like where the author went with the story in the end but I have to admit I was a little worried for awhile, especially about Aurelia's past and who she really was.  Morin really has a gift for dropping just enough information to have you going "Okay then! Must read on to see where she is going here".  This book is definitely not your average historical fiction novel.  She stepped outside the box and created a unique and absorbing book that was totally different from anything else I've read in the genre.  I enjoyed the characters, the writing style, and the constant surprises.  Despite the small issue I mentioned above, I really liked this book.  I have two more of Donna's books that I will be bumping up to the top of my TBR.  Definitely pick this up if you love historicals set in Italy and you're in an adventurous mood. 

I received this book from the author for her tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.  These are my honest thoughts on the book.

For more guest posts and interviews with author Donna Russo Morin, giveaways and more reviews you can view the schedule for the rest of the tour here.

About the author: Donna Russo Morin was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1958. Her writing endeavors began at age six and covered such timely topics as The Pink Pussy Cat for President and The   Numbers 2 and 4 are in Love.

Traveling through adolescence on the wings of the ‘60s gave Donna a lot of grist for her writing   mill. Feminism, civil rights, the Vietnam War were all a disturbing yet highly motivating muse.   Donna found her voice in fiction and with the appearance of a new horror writer on the book scene, a little known author named Stephen King, she turned her pen to the gruesome and the grotesque.

After graduating from the University of Rhode Island, Donna worked in marketing and advertising for large corporations and small non-profit arts organizations. When she had her children, she knew with a certainty that she needed to show them, by example, that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.

In addition to writing and teaching writing, Donna has worked as a model and actor since the age of seventeen, when she did her first television commercial for Sears. Since then she has appeared in more than thirty television spots and print ads, everything from changing the oil in her car (that was acting) to modeling fur coats. She also appeared in three episodes of Showtime’s THE BROTHERHOOD, as well as in Martin Scorsese’s THE DEPARTED.

Donna lives peacefully, close to the beautiful shoreline of Rhode Island that she loves so much, with her two sons, Devon and Dylan, her greatest works in progress.

For more on Donna and her novels:  Donna's website,  Twitter,  Facebook

You can also follow the tour on Twitter:  #KingsAgentVirtualBookTour


  1. Great review, I really enjoyed this novel too. Like you said, I wondered where Aurelias character was going as far as revealing herself in the story.

  2. I liked this one a lot too. My favorite part of the book was Battista, I thought he was a great character.

  3. Really good review. This one is on my wish list. Thanks for the heads up about the lack of detail on Italian politics -- I prefer historical fiction that includes this type of detail to give historical context to a story, but can live without it when the story itself is good and this one sounds like something I'd enjoy.