American novelist Martin has opened a window into the medieval world to present us with a vivid portrait of St. Francis. Inspired by Renaissance frescoes of this patron saint of Italy, Martin takes a novel approach to biography, delicately blending fact with fiction to recount St. Francis's death, travels, and rise to sainthood. Although the translation is crisp and clear, Martin doesn't follow a direct line. The book begins with St. Francis's dark and final days and concludes with scenes from his days of conversion. Readers who aren't well acquainted with the saint may find themselves in a maze of information, but the graphic and detailed descriptions will allow them to imagine the medieval environment. In several instances Martin seems to suggest that St. Francis led a life of servitude and self-denial out of lunacy rather than spiritual gain, a position that leaves readers wondering what spiritual intrinsic value, if any, there was to his suffering and self-sacrifice. Overall, however, this biography stands out because it doesn't focus on the most familiar images of the saint the ragged friar kneeling before the pope, or the child of nature. Recommended for academic libraries with Spanish-language religious history sections. Lillian McAnally, Orlando, FL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.