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
"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)
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.
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.
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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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