Dust Jacket Description:
""It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance, and Venice teems with rumors of an ancient book that holds the secret to unimaginable power. It is an alchemist's dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. Everyone, rich and poor alike, speculates about the long-buried secrets scrawled in its pages and where it could possibly be hidden within the labyrinthine city. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it." "As a storm of intrigue and desire circles the republic that grew from the sea, Luciano, a penniless orphan with a quick wit and an even faster hand, is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired, for reasons he cannot yet begin to understand, as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. There, in the lavish home of the most powerful man in Venice, he is initiated into the chef's rich and aromatic world, with all its seductive ingredients and secrets." Luciano's loyalty to his street friends and the passion he holds for a convent girl named Francesca remain, but it is not long before he, too, is caught up in the madness. After he witnesses a shocking murder in the Palace dining room, he realizes that nothing is as it seems and that no one, not even those he's come to rely on most, can be trusted. Armed with a precocious mind and an insatiable curiosity, Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing open the shutters of his mind, inflame his deepest desires, and leave an indelible mark on his soul."
Characters: I loved the Chef! He was a very endearing personality. He was a great mentor to Luciano and I found myself rooting for him even before I was clear on the plot line. I was very irritated with Luciano the majority of the time. He made idiotic choices based upon his love for Francesca, the convent girl, but he was still an interesting character. The relationship with the Chef and Luciano was the best part of the book. I still love to speculate over certain loose strings. Francesca was Luciano's product of infatuation and I would've preferred more scenes with her. I loved the cat, Bernardo, and was glad to finally see a pet that wasn't killed off half way through the novel. I loved the passages about the Dodge as well. Overall, there weren't a lot of characters, but the Chef and Luciano kept me interested. 4 and a half flowers.
Writing: Newmark's writing is absolutely gorgeous. The descriptions of Italy were rich and luscious, and I haven't even started on how the food is described. The prose is like dark chocolate that you want to savor for as long as possible. 5 flowers.
Plot: The plot isn't clear from the beginning, and figuring it out is a long winding road. There were parts of the book that were almost anti-climatic, but I loved the mystery of the Book and the story itself. 4 flowers.
End: I loved how the ending let the story come full circle. I was slightly disappointed with certain aspects, but overall a satisfying conclusion to a descriptive read. 4 flowers.
Cover: After reading the book I like this cover a lot more then I did when I originally saw it. 4 flowers.
Dust Jacket Description: Mimics the prose and entices me to read a rich Renaissance novel. 4 flowers.
Overall: If you love the Renaissance era, beautiful prose, detailed food descriptions and a dash of mystery to read, this is definitely the book for you. 4 flowers.