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Although a well-mined biography topic, the Medici dynasty continues to fascinate, and critic Unger (The Watercolors of Winslow Homer) offers a smart, highly readable and abundantly researched book, making particularly good use of Medici family letters and earlier biographical sources such as Machiavelli's writings. Heir to a vast international banking empire and trading cartel with branches in Venice, London and Geneva, Lorenzo de' Medici (1449-1492) was born to rule. Naturally sociable and charismatic with a common touch, famous temper and cynical world view, the teenaged Lorenzo excelled in classics, riding, arms, archery and music. He pursued liaisons with both women and men, represented his sickly father, Piero, on an important diplomatic mission and thwarted his father's enemies during a legendary ambush. His accomplishments do not stop there: as Florence's de facto ruler, Lorenzo actively collaborated with the artist Botticelli, was a master tactician and diplomat, and survived a papal-sanctioned assassination attempt that claimed the life of his beloved brother. Renaissance Florence-where wealthy aristocrats rubbed shoulders with the poor on narrow city streets and whose art and intellectual life dazzled Europe-is itself an intriguing character, proving Unger's mastery over his facts. Illus. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.