Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tour of Italy Review: The Daughter of Siena by Marina Fiorato

From the Back Cover:

Amid the intrigue and danger of 18th-century Italy, a young woman becomes embroiled in romance and treachery with a rider in the Palio, the breathtaking horse race set in Siena....

It’s 1723, and the Palio, a white-knuckle horse race, is soon to be held in the heart of the peerless Tuscan city of Siena. But the beauty and pageantry masks the deadly rivalry that exists among the city’s districts. Each ward, represented by an animal symbol, puts forth a rider to claim the winner’s banner, but the contest turns citizens into tribes and men into beasts—and beautiful, headstrong, young Pia Tolomei is in love with a rider of an opposing ward, an outsider who threatens the shaky balance of intrigue and influence that rules the land.

My Thoughts:

This was a great read! The story follows three residents of Siena: Pia, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy family who finds herself betrothed to a monster from a rival family for the sake of a political alliance; Riccardo, the poor son of a farrier who is chosen to ride for his contrada in the Palio; and the duchess Violante, widow of Ferdinand de Medici and governess of Siena. Though strangers when the story begins, their lives become entwined in a dangerous mission to save their city from a covert takeover by the corrupt leaders of the Nine ruling families.

The city of Siena lives for its annual horse race, the Palio, and it's run twice a year, in July and August. In this novel, the year is 1723, and an accident mars the first Palio, and sets in motion a tale of revenge, intrigue, duty, and love. Pia and Violante both see Riccardo for the first time, and this man of honor will become very important to both of them, and to the Nine, as he becomes a pawn in their plans to take over the city. I won't say much more about the plot, because it is very intricate and suspenseful, and it kept me guessing right up to the end, and the second Palio--that final climactic horse race--had me biting my nails on the edge of my seat! But it's very good. Suspenseful and exciting, and it's very romantic.

The city of Siena is so much a part of this story that it really comes to life. I could feel the heat of the sun in a bright blue sky shining down on me and the warmth of the sun-baked cobblestones, hear the roar of the crowd, smell the horses and the hay, see the influence of the arts everywhere I looked. I really was transported to Siena and I enjoyed my time there. The characters are great, too; Pia and Riccardo are both brave and noble, suffering heroes, and though it took me a while to warm up to Violante, by the end I had new respect for her.

The only complaint I have is the repeated descriptions of the Medici brothers' sexual exploits. I'm no prude, and in fact, I like racy reads, but I got the message that they were debauched perverts the first time, I didn't need to hear about it again and again, and I thought it cheapened what was otherwise a very eloquent novel. But that's it! I loved everything else! I've seen mixed reviews of her other novels, but I really enjoyed this one.

My Rating:  4.5 Stars out of 5

P.S. - I forgot to say that a very special horse plays an important role, and made me cry, and themes from Dante's Purgatory and Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur enhance the story.

*Please note: This review references a copy received from the publisher. These are my honest and unbiased thoughts, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.


  1. I've got this coming up in June -- I can't wait! Suspenseful and exciting -- eee!

  2. My Not-So-Bebe-Girl Autumn is a big historical romance fan (my tastes go more towards historical fiction), and this looks like one to put on her shelves! Thanks for the review!


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