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Children's LiteratureThe "Makers of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance" series explores the lives of luminaries like Chaucer, Dante, and Thomas More; illustrations are from contemporary paintings and prints, as well as modern photos of historical sites. Although each volume is written by a different author, a certain similarity of style between them attempts to reconcile a straightforward text in a readable font with complex ideas from periods not familiar to most of its intended readers. This can create an overwhelming parade of names and places (there are no maps). Wagner's task is made especially difficult by the complexities of Florentine politics, intrigues by numerous Medicis, and the near impossibility of keeping them all straight. Machiavelli is presented as a patriot trying to discover the qualities needed by Florentine rulers to keep their city-state strong and prosperous. As a diplomat he was able to observe many rulers and analyze their styles, resulting in his famous study, The Prince, in which his political philosophy is based on pragmatism rather than idealism. As a result his later reputation is probably worse than he deserves. Machiavelli's fortunes fluctuated with those of the Medicis—his final achievement being his History of Florence. Readers will meet intriguing characters like Lorenzo the Magnificent, Savonarola, Cesare Borgia, and Pope Julian II; a sidebar on Caterina Sforza and a portrait of Emperor Maximilian II and his family are especially interesting. The complexity of actors and events and the inclusion of extensive quotes from Machiavelli's work, make this biography accessible mainly to more sophisticated readers. 2006, Chelsea House, Ages 12 up.
—Barbara L. Talcroft