Set in Italy in the early 1500's Malice of Fortune will take readers on a tour of Italy's politics at a most interesting time. Rodrigo Borgia is currently reigning as Pope Alexander. It's a position he bought. His most beloved son Juan, who had led the pope's armies, has been murdered and Alexander is still grieving 5 years later. At Juan's death, Cesare Borgia, takes over the pope's army. Previously Cesare, was serving the church as a bishop. Now he is known as Duke Valentino. His current mission is to bring together Italy under Papal rule.
In his despair, Alexander has Damiata and her child brought to the papal apartments. Damiata, a whore, was the lover of Juan. Alexander believes that she set up Juan's death. The Pope tells Damiata that he will hold her son hostage until she solves the mystery of Juan's death. Damiata tells the pope that the condettieri (basically warlords) murdered Juan and that Cesare was involved as well.
Damiata's investigation leads her to a young Florentine diplomat, Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli is trying to prevent the sack of Florence by both the condettieri and Cesare's armies. Machiavelli and Damiata develop a close relationship that effects the search. Cesare is trying to unite the condettiere with the help of his military engineer, Leonardo da Vince. More murders begin to take place. The bodies of dismembered and beheaded woman begin to turn up. Leonardo starts investigating. Plotting the locations of their remains, da Vinci discovers a diabolical plot to the murders. This plot proves to be the work of an almost mystical person - someone in a devil's mask.
The story is told in 2 parts. The first from the point of view of Damiata as though she is speaking to her son. The second part is told from Machiavelli's point of view. This part gives the reader a glimpse into the rational behind Machiavelli's other writings. There are wonderful descriptions - you can actually see the plains at night, the crowded public rooms and the luxurious clothing. This is an interesting look at a time period that contained historically great men (Leonardo, Machiavelli and the Borgia's) but was still mired in the lore of witches and fate.
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