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Leonardo's Swans | [Karen Essex]

Leonardo's Swans

Isabella d'Este, daughter of the Duke of Ferrara, born into privilege and the political and artistic turbulence of Renaissance Italy, is a stunning black-eyed blonde and a precocious lover and collector of art. Worldly and ambitious, she has never envied her less attractive sister, the spirited but naive Beatrice, until, by a quirk of fate, Beatrice is betrothed to the future Duke of Milan.
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Publisher's Summary

Isabella d'Este, daughter of the Duke of Ferrara, born into privilege and the political and artistic turbulence of Renaissance Italy, is a stunning black-eyed blonde and a precocious lover and collector of art. Worldly and ambitious, she has never envied her less attractive sister, the spirited but naive Beatrice, until, by a quirk of fate, Beatrice is betrothed to the future Duke of Milan. Although he is more than twice their age, openly lives with his mistress, and is reputedly trying to eliminate the current duke by nefarious means, Ludovico Sforza is Isabella's match in intellect and passion for all things of beauty. Only he would allow her to fulfill her destiny: to reign over one of the world's most powerful and enlightened realms and be immortalized in oil by the genius Leonardo da Vinci.

Though Isabella weds the Marquis of Mantua, a man she has loved since childhood, Beatrice's fortunes rise effortlessly through her marriage to Ludovico. The two sisters compete for supremacy in the illustrious courts of Europe, and Isabella vows that she will not rest until she wrestles back her true fate and plays temptress to the sensuous Ludovico and muse to the great Leonardo. But when Ludovico's grand plan to control Europe begins to crumble, immortality through art becomes a luxury, and the two sisters must choose between familial loyalty and survival in the treacherous political climate.

Leonardo's Swans is an exceptionally vivid evocation of the artist during his years in the glittering court of Milan, re-creating the thrilling moments when he conceived The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. It portrays a genius ahead of his time who can rarely escape the demands of his noble patrons long enough to express his own artistic vision.

©2006 Karen Essex; (P)2006 Books on Tape

What the Critics Say

"Powerful historical fiction." (Booklist)
"The stories of Isabella and Beatrice d'Este along with the occasional investigations of Leonardo's artworks, methods, and personality are always engrossing." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (75 )
5 star
 (18)
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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3.8 (12 )
5 star
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Story
3.8 (12 )
5 star
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  •  
    Michael Allen Minneapolis, MN 10-27-07
    Michael Allen Minneapolis, MN 10-27-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good, but not Captivating"

    This is a novel in which all the main characters are actual historical figures. The story itself is quite good - but almost completely due to the subject matter. The time around the turn of the 16th century in Italy is rich in events, political intrigue and fascinating characters. So I almost hate to say that I wasn't captivated by this audiobook.

    The story is told from the viewpoints of sisters Isabella & Beatrice d'Este - two of the most influential women of the Italian Renaissance. It focuses on their relationships with their politically powerful husbands, with each other, and (marginally) with Leonardo da Vinci.

    Perhaps if I had read, rather than listened to, this book, I might have had a much different opinion. It's possible that the narrator - even though she seemed to be a good reader - lacked that certain spark that makes for a great audiobook. The characters all seemed to run together & at times, I'm afraid I lost track of which sister was "speaking."

    On the plus side, this book made me want to know more about each character & their actual histories. So my overall experience with this book was a positive one.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly Pinole, CA, United States 09-01-09
    Kimberly Pinole, CA, United States 09-01-09 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Don't Bother"

    I didn't even make it half way through this book. I liked the narrator, but the story was just dull and very slow moving. I could not care about any of the main characters as all they did was whine for what they did not have - clothes, money, power. Just not to my taste, really.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cate P Colorado 08-06-09
    Cate P Colorado 08-06-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    41
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    43
    14
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    "Should be better"

    What should be an interesting story is marred by 7th grade level prose and really bad narration. The narrator's voice is very modern and young - perhaps better suited to romances for young girls. The story, while simplistic, would have been better served with more gravitas in the narration department. The characters are selfish, silly, and predictable. I find myself feeling annoyed instead of engaged. I'm about a third of the way through and haven't decided whether to finish listening or not. I keep hoping the prose style and characters will be less annoying, but alas . . .

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teresa Houston, TX, United States 07-19-07
    Teresa Houston, TX, United States 07-19-07
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    "Narrator Inappropriate"

    This is the first book from Audible in the 3 years I have been a member that I stopped listening because of the narrator. I gave the book 3 stars because I really don't know if it's any good. This is the same narrator that read The Nannie Diaries, which I liked and felt she did a good job. But she is just too American and contemporary sounding to read a historical novel for my taste. Her voice was extremely distracting to me - and I gave it a fair shot but decided to listen to something more exciting. Just listen before you buy.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anita San francisco, CA, USA 03-02-10
    Anita San francisco, CA, USA 03-02-10 Member Since 2006
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    "OK, not great"

    This was an entertaining book, but wasn't great.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Singin' Again Spotsylvania, Virginia 04-17-07
    Singin' Again Spotsylvania, Virginia 04-17-07 Member Since 2005
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    "Very Interesting Perspective"

    I love historical fiction and this book is a fine example. It was well written, very well researched, and well read by the narrator. This was a period in European history about which I knew little and I learned a great deal while being highly entertained by the events in the lives of the characters which were loosely based on historical figures. This is a very pallatable way to get your history lesson. Having been to Vinci and seen Leonardo's house and models of his inventions, I could easily climb into this story and felt I had a better insight into this man's amazing genius.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret United States 06-30-14
    Margaret United States 06-30-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Good Enough for Vacation"

    A pretty good historical novel about two aristocratic sisters during the Italian Renaissance. I found all of the characters rather one-dimensional, but the descriptions of life during wartime for the Borgia-Pope era ruling class was pretty and evocative.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Garfield, AR, United States 10-10-11
    Peter Garfield, AR, United States 10-10-11 Member Since 2006
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    "Compelling historical novel"

    Creative, evocative insight into Leonardo and the turbulent times of the late 1400s in what was to become Italy, told through the eyes of women of the ruling families.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Ann Holtzman Chapel Hill NC 04-09-11
    Carol Ann Holtzman Chapel Hill NC 04-09-11 Member Since 2009

    Candy H.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Leonardo's Swans"

    I couldn't force myself to read more than about one-fourth of this book. In the author's effort to sound authentically renaissance, it's stilted and artificial sounding. Boring, too!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sherilyn bountiful, UT, USA 06-02-07
    Sherilyn bountiful, UT, USA 06-02-07 Member Since 2006
    ratings
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    138
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    "Leonardo's Swans"

    Loved this audiobook. Held my interest throughout. what a wonderful way to acquaint myself with Italian renaissance history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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