Customer Reviews for

Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance

Average Rating 4
( 81 )
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(28)

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(12)

2 Star

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(7)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Breathtaking, suspenseful, can't wait for the next book!

Rome, 1492. Francesca Giordano needs to avenge her father's murder, but to do so, she must first gain power by employing the skills she's learned from her father and taking his place as Cardinal Roderigo Borgia's master poisoner. But her father's death isn't a simple ma...
Rome, 1492. Francesca Giordano needs to avenge her father's murder, but to do so, she must first gain power by employing the skills she's learned from her father and taking his place as Cardinal Roderigo Borgia's master poisoner. But her father's death isn't a simple matter to avenge--as she explores the circumstances of his death, she learns that he was involved in an empire-changing plot, and she is expected to follow in his footsteps and carry out an unthinkable assassination.

Francesca is amazing. At first, I thought she would be unsympathetic, since her first act in chapter one is to poison Borgia's current poisoner in order to take his position. But while Francesca does plenty of unsavory things, she still retains a heart capable of loving and a moral compass that pushes her to protect the innocent. In her own words, she lives in ugly times: "We live in the age of poison, of one kind or another. Every great house employs someone like myself for protection or, when necessary, to make an example of an enemy. It is the way of things" (pg 11), and she does her best, considering all the scheming, backstabbing, and upheaval of the society around her. Francesca is also a woman performing what is traditionally a man's job, so she has more than the usual amount of opposition to her work--while a male poisoner is honored as a professional, a woman is looked on with disgust and labeled a witch. Most of her work has nothing to do with killing, but rather with preventing the death of her patron Borgia, who must be protected from poisoned food, poisoned cloth, etc. She has to be intelligent enough to out-think anyone who would make an attempt on Il Cardinale's life, and she's highly adept. Plus, she's not a lone wolf and is circumspect enough to gain allies in the Borgia house, among them the captain of the guard and the chief steward, though her friendship with the bubbly 12-year-old Lucrezia Borgia isn't a calculated move--they're genuinely fond of each other. The only problems I have with Francesca's POV are the times she explains to the reader her reasons are for doing certain things. I could have done without the extra editorializing because her motives always eventually become clear, but aside from that, her narrative style is classy and compulsively readable.

I took my time reading Poison, which is unusual for me. I like to read quickly, but here I found a book worth savoring, something intelligent and suspenseful, with an encouraging undertone. The cruel side of life shown in the despicable actions of the Italian clergy is balanced by Francesca's desire to do the morally right thing for the greatest number of people, despite her dark internal leanings. One last praise I have to offer is that the novel is strongly pro-Semitic, which I very much appreciated--the scenes set in the Jewish Quarter were heartbreaking, and the possibility of genocide against the Jewish people of Renaissance Europe was introduced with all the horror appropriate to such an act.

I was simply delighted when I discovered that there will be more Francesca novels. I think I'll be seeking out more historical fiction in the meantime, to fill the void until Sara Poole's next book comes out.

posted by Tiger_Holland on October 24, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

I totally agree. I wouldve given it five stars.....

Leave out the sex and cussing and then it would be five stars

posted by Scoll98 on January 22, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012

    I totally agree. I wouldve given it five stars.....

    Leave out the sex and cussing and then it would be five stars

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Breathtaking, suspenseful, can't wait for the next book!

    Rome, 1492. Francesca Giordano needs to avenge her father's murder, but to do so, she must first gain power by employing the skills she's learned from her father and taking his place as Cardinal Roderigo Borgia's master poisoner. But her father's death isn't a simple matter to avenge--as she explores the circumstances of his death, she learns that he was involved in an empire-changing plot, and she is expected to follow in his footsteps and carry out an unthinkable assassination.

    Francesca is amazing. At first, I thought she would be unsympathetic, since her first act in chapter one is to poison Borgia's current poisoner in order to take his position. But while Francesca does plenty of unsavory things, she still retains a heart capable of loving and a moral compass that pushes her to protect the innocent. In her own words, she lives in ugly times: "We live in the age of poison, of one kind or another. Every great house employs someone like myself for protection or, when necessary, to make an example of an enemy. It is the way of things" (pg 11), and she does her best, considering all the scheming, backstabbing, and upheaval of the society around her. Francesca is also a woman performing what is traditionally a man's job, so she has more than the usual amount of opposition to her work--while a male poisoner is honored as a professional, a woman is looked on with disgust and labeled a witch. Most of her work has nothing to do with killing, but rather with preventing the death of her patron Borgia, who must be protected from poisoned food, poisoned cloth, etc. She has to be intelligent enough to out-think anyone who would make an attempt on Il Cardinale's life, and she's highly adept. Plus, she's not a lone wolf and is circumspect enough to gain allies in the Borgia house, among them the captain of the guard and the chief steward, though her friendship with the bubbly 12-year-old Lucrezia Borgia isn't a calculated move--they're genuinely fond of each other. The only problems I have with Francesca's POV are the times she explains to the reader her reasons are for doing certain things. I could have done without the extra editorializing because her motives always eventually become clear, but aside from that, her narrative style is classy and compulsively readable.

    I took my time reading Poison, which is unusual for me. I like to read quickly, but here I found a book worth savoring, something intelligent and suspenseful, with an encouraging undertone. The cruel side of life shown in the despicable actions of the Italian clergy is balanced by Francesca's desire to do the morally right thing for the greatest number of people, despite her dark internal leanings. One last praise I have to offer is that the novel is strongly pro-Semitic, which I very much appreciated--the scenes set in the Jewish Quarter were heartbreaking, and the possibility of genocide against the Jewish people of Renaissance Europe was introduced with all the horror appropriate to such an act.

    I was simply delighted when I discovered that there will be more Francesca novels. I think I'll be seeking out more historical fiction in the meantime, to fill the void until Sara Poole's next book comes out.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2012

    ...

    I have to say this book did not live up to expectations for me. There were a lot of details in this book....a lot. Unfortunately the details were less about the characters and more drawn out on sceneries and events. As a result I never came to know or even care for any of the characters. I feel like this book had a ton of potential. I finished it with relief that it was over.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Recommended

    A nice book if you would like light reading about the Borgias. For a more serious historical fiction read that is more thrilling, more captivating, a real page-turner, there are books by other authors.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2011

    Wonderful book! A bit of history with a great story.

    Sara Poole does a great job of taking history and weaving a fictional tale through it. It makes the book so interesting and believable that I couldn't put it down. I am so excited to read a sequel from her! The way she offers details about the time and place transports you there. It reminds me of something by Anne Rice - my favorite author. The start of the book seems a little overwhelming, but keep reading and everything will fall in to place.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2012

    LOVE

    I read this in about three hours. I absolutely loved it! It's a little much at first, but once you get everything sorted out in your head it flows very well. The plot was ingenius and kept me guessing most of the time! Very, very good read. I'd buy it again in a heartbeat.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2011

    Excellent

    Great read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2011

    Good

    The book was good, but it did drag a bit in some points.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2011

    Terrific!!!!

    Great historical read!!!! A real page turner, I truly enjoyed this book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2011

    Great historical thriller

    I'm always on the lookout for a good historical fiction and this one did not disappoint. I picked it up because it was about fictional employee of Cardinal Borgia, but am now starting the second book after becoming fascinated with the poisoner herself. I found this book to be a great read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Awesome

    Great historical mystery

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    review taken from One Book At A Time http://onebooktime.blogspot.com

    If your looking for something fast paces this isn't it. In fact, it took me awhile to get into the story. But gradually the characters grew on me. I found it very interesting that so many are actual figures in history and how much of their lives revolved around poisons. So, it's only appropriate that the story be about the fictional poisoner. I enjoyed Francesca's voice. She questions her actions, but always continues on with what she thinks is right. I liked her relationships with the characters around her. People are both afraid and in awe of her and it shows in how the behave towards her. She's got an end goal, and I don't think she cares how she gets there. I do get the feeling the some of the "real" characters are played off as being a little bit less diabolical than they might have been in real life. Cardinal Borgia is said to have been one of the most corrupt Pope's in Catholic history. I did not get that impression from this story.

    The story is slow to build. It has to lay out all the details first. I felt it did a good job of portraying Rome in the late 1400's. It was also interesting reading about the Catholic church and how it may have functioned in a different era. It's also an era I'm sure the church would like to forget. The inclusion of the Jewish people and some of their strife's during this time make the story very real. Some of the events may be fiction, but it seems like this could have happened. Overall, I liked it quite a bit more than I thought I would. The ending leaves an opening for a sequel and I would love to see more of the Borgia family and of Francesca.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    fascinating early Renaissance era thriller

    In 1492, Giordano is murdered on the streets of Rome. His daughter wants to know why and who, but no one not even his employer seems interested. To obtain the knowledge she seeks, Francesca knows she must replace her late father as the chief poisoner of Rodrigo Borgia. The only way to prove her capable of performing the position is to poison someone of importance; she kills her target and is hired by Borgia s his personal poisoner.

    When Pope Innocent II dies, her assignment becomes clear. She must murder any rival of Rodrigo who along with his family plans to see him become the next Pope. However, her efforts prove so successful that those who killed her father come after her.

    This is a fascinating early Renaissance era thriller starring a fabulous lead protagonist who brings to life the political intrigue of the times. Although the story line can turn slow as Sara Poole provides a powerful look at the Borgia dynasty through the female poisoner, fans will relish this strong historical as murder and mayhem mix in late fifteenth century Rome and Vatican City as competitors to replace the late Pope Innocent II kill off opponents.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 23, 2010

    Time for a Trip Through Time

    This book is a little bit out of my norm, though not entirely as history is an interest of mine, and Poison is historical fiction. In context, I thoroughly enjoyed "Water for Elephants" which transported readers to the era of the Great Depression in the United States and life aboard a travelling circus of that era, and read The Book Thief, which took us to World War II Germany. Poison takes us a little bit further back in history for the story that it wishes to tell. So while Poison doesn't fit into the category of science fiction or fantasy as this website usually focuses on, I am taking the liberty of including my thoughts on this book here.




    The setting for the story is Rome, 1492. The main character, Francesca Giordano, works for Rodrigo Borgia, one of the most important people in Christendom as his poisoner. It is a job that she had to murder a person to get, a job that she felt it was her right to have based on the fact that her father had previously held the position. Her father had been murdered, and she demands to see justice--or is it vengeance--whereas it seems that no one seems to care about what happened to her father, and she sees fit to take it upon herself to find them. Thus enters her foray into the political and religious intrigue of 15th century Rome, and soon earns the attention of the same force that murdered her father.




    This book is eloquently written from the start, with almost a Victorian flare of description and flow of the story. The prelude to the story drew me into wanting to continue reading this book and caused me to drop the other books I was currently reading to focus more on this particular book. Unfortunately, the prose that the book is written in slowed the story down in its early going, and the first 20 pages were less than exciting as I struggled to understand fully what was going on. After that, however, the story really took off on a nonstop adventure through the streets of Rome and the underbelly of the Vatican as Francesca struggled to make sure that her master became elected pope, not only for her sake and his, but the very survival of the Jewish population in Rome, which depended on Borgia's election as well.


    Once it starts, the action doesn't stop through the book at all, continuing right up to the very end, making it hard to put the book down. However, the conclusion of the book does seem a bit rushed. Most of the story unfolds over the course of a couple of days, and then the four days of the sealed conclave to elect the pope was given a scant few pages at the end.

    Overall, I think this is one of the better books I have read in a while and would read other books by Sara Poole, especially if they pick up the story of Francesca in her quest for vengeance.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2013

    Captivating

    The novel started slow for me, but further in it became captivating and hard to put down. It's gritty honesty made you feel as if you really there, witnessing the good and bad alike. More description with Francesca and an immediately enjoyable start would warrant 5 stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2012

    Good read

    I enjoyed the trip back in time! It was a page turner for me. It could have used more depth but overall I would recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2012

    After a few chapters...

    After I finished reading a few chapters, it caught mmy attention and I kept reading more. I just finished the second book of the series... for some reason, I have a difficult time starting her books. It takes quite a few chapters before it holds my interest, but once it does hold my attention, I just want to finish the book to discover what clever plans Francesca has created, and if her darkness will ever allow her relationship with rocco to improve. I would recommend this for readers who enjoy a daring, yet caring character who thinks 'human thoughts' with a touch of darkness. Not my favorite books, but I still plan on reading them all as she continues to write them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2012

    Great read

    Great plot, well devloped characters and real action. I enjoyed this book immensely.

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  • Posted May 20, 2012

    A good idea for a book poorly executed.

    I don't like to trash anyone's work, so I will just say that I didn't like it. The author seems to have her own ideas about the characters that are not really supported by what historians have to say about them. The story drags a bit. This is one of those book that could have been 100 pages shorter. If you are interested in reading about the Borgias, I strongly recommend The Family by Mario Puzo.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2012

    Scouge to leafstar

    U can join clans with me... at dracula

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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