Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance

Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance

by Sara Poole

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Poison 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 117 reviews.
Tiger_Holland More than 1 year ago
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.
miss_dobie More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Maria Donahue More than 1 year ago
Great historical read!!!! A real page turner, I truly enjoyed this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Leave out the sex and cussing and then it would be five stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was good, but it did drag a bit in some points.
AlwaysReadingDC More than 1 year ago
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.
jordie32 More than 1 year ago
Great historical mystery
pagese More than 1 year ago
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.
harstan More than 1 year ago
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
papyri on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. It was well-written and truely a page turner for me. The only minor misgiving I have with the story, is that the main character's attitudes and actions seem a bit "modern" for the story's time period in Renaissance Italy.
brokenship on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Have you ever read a novel that made you want to quickly flip through the pages because you couldn't wait to devour it all, and yet at the same time want to savor every carefully chosen, skillfully written word? A novel that made you relate to the characters so closely that it hurt you when they made a terrible choice, that you grew anxious when they were in peril? These are the marks of a brilliant novel, well developed characters and a plotline that leaves one wanting more. I must admit I did not have high hopes going into Poison. It was a bargain book that I picked up as a filler for free shipping - and it was one of the best decisions I have made regarding choosing a novel. I will not begin to skirt the fact that this is a slower read. It is not a quick paced, plot driven novel. Sara Poole, a pen name for another famous author I have yet to discover (but long to), carefully explains her settings, allows for one to immerse oneself in a culture from a different time, before moving forward with the story. This type of writing is not bothersome for me, it allows for me to be completely and utterly pulled into the story. However, the impressive detail and full immersion into the setting did not leave me wanting for plot, for it was surely there. I wished for the ability to know the entirety of this novel in an instant because it was difficult for me to pace myself. I regret that this is a series, though I have already read the second one, because I simply cannot wait a moment longer to know what is happening with Francesca. An interesting premise to be sure Francesca Giordano's father, a poisoner for the infamous Rodrigo Borgia, has recently been murdered. Seeking to avenge her father's death, the plot centers around Francesca's assent to his position while being a woman in a man's world full of deceit, illusions and hate. The subplots include a romance, an affair and plans of genocide. If you're one looking for a romantic novel however, look elsewhere. I longed to know more about Francesca and the man she loves, I will not ruin whom she has feelings for as it develops throughout the novel and there are a few men that fit the bill for a while, but Poole was elusive and it is without a doubt a secondary story (a scant few pages every so often to sate one's longing). I'm still waiting to see how that pans out! A definite recommendation, but it is a more mature novel. Darker themes and plotlines fill the pages, especially in the sequel and more than likely the forthcoming third book
cyderry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Borgias have been well-hyped historical figures for many years but recently they have been front and center so there is no surprise that more and more books are being written with them as main characters. This book is the first in a series with the Borgias in the forefront. In 1492 when this book is set, Rodrigo Borgia, a cardinal in the Catholic Church, is startled when his Poisoner is poisoned by the daughter of his former poisoner. (Are there enough poisoners to go around?) When Francesca Giodano explains that she needs to avenge her father's death she is placed in the envious/not so envious position of protecting Il Cardinale and assisting him in his efforts to be the next Pope. The story-telling is so well structured that one wonders if it could be true.What fascinates me the most about this book and the story it tells is how Ms Poole exposes the corruption of the Church's upper echelon as well as interweaving anti-Semitism and the Spanish Inquisition. MS Poole also has an interesting style of writing with this tale coming directly from the central character as if it were a very long letter being written to a friend.To be honest, I won the second book in the series Borgia Betrayal and figured that I should probably read the first in the series as preparation. Now I am really looking forward to the Borgia Betrayal if it would just get here!
fyrefly98 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary: Francesca Giordano is the daughter of the poisoner employed by Rodrigo Borgia. When her father is murdered in the street, she petitions Borgia to allow her to take his place. While her secret motivation is vengeance for her father, her main responsibilities are making sure Borgia and his household remain safe from the poisons of his rivals, and occasionally using her knowledge to help further Borgia's ambitions... ambitions that stop at nothing short of the papacy. But what Francesca uncovers is a plot that ranges far wider than the Borgias and their rivals, a plot that will take Francesca from the heart of the Jewish Ghetto to the depths of the catacombs beneath the Vatican, a plot of unspeakable evil that could change the face of Europe forever.Review: I haven't read a ton of historical fiction this year, but a lot of what I have read has been really, really good, and Poison is up at the top of the pack. If all of the historical fiction novels on my shelf were as good as this, I'd be a very happy camper indeed.Let's run down the checklist of what I want out of my historical fiction, shall we? An well-evoked and interesting setting with which I am not overly familiar? Poison's got it. I've read plenty of books set in the early Renaissance, plenty set in Rome (this was my third in a row, actually), and at least one that features the Borgias (Gregory Maguire's Mirror, Mirror), but this was the first I've read that involves the papacy and the upper echelons of the Catholic Church so directly. Its plot involving anti-semitism, the Inquisition, the machinations of the Borgias, and the early stirrings of the Renaissance was completely fascinating. In addition, Poole's great at bringing her settings to life, to the point where I could practically feel the Roman summer heat and the creeping chill of the crypts. Next on the checklist: a complex, well-developed, and relatable main character? Check! Francesca's got a great voice, and I really enjoyed her point of view; she's probably somewhat anachronistically independent-minded, but she was so much fun to read that I didn't really mind. Poole's other characters were equally well-drawn, and I particularly enjoyed her interpretations of Cesare and the young Lucrezia Borgia - not traditionally villainous, but still within the realm of historical believability. (Also appreciated is the author's note in which she separates historical fact from authorial invention.)Pretty much the only thing I didn't love was the habit Poole had of starting a scene or digression, and then having Francesca demur from telling us more, citing discretion or protection from a poisoner's knowledge or whatever. Used sparingly, it would have been cute and charming and helped to develop Francesca's character. However, after a while, it started to feel like Poole's way of getting around a scene she didn't want to write, or research she hadn't done.But in the grand scheme of things, that's a pretty minor issue. Other than that, I enjoyed the heck out of this book, and can't wait to read the sequel. 4.5 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: Fans of historical fiction, mysteries involving the Catholic church, or the Borgias should definitely check this out.
ShaEliPar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Poison tells the story of Francesca Girodano, a young woman who positions herself as Cardinal Borgia's "poisoner" in order to avenge her father's death. Francesca is asked to create posions for the Cardinal, as well as to protect him and his family from harm. Putting herself in constant danger to do her job, Francesca learns of the growing tension between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community, as well as finding out much more about her father then she ever knew.The beginning of the book is very fast paced with a lot of action, but the middle is a bit slow in places and even though the ending sets itself up for a sequel I'm not so sure I'll be reading it. Since the novel is told in first person and because of Francesca's job she comes off as a rather unlikeable protagonist, but she is headstrong and brave which is nice to see. I would love to think that more woman at the time where as gutsy as Francesca, but that was also my main complaint with her and the book. She just doesn't seem to fit with how a woman of the time would have been allowed to act. I also seriously doubt she would have been allowed to hold such an important job, considering how women of the time were viewed by men. Since the book was tagged as "Before the Tudors, there were the Borgias" I was definitely a bit disappointed that they weren't featured more heavily in the story. I did enjoy all the action and the religious plot line between the Catholics and the Jews, as I knew very little about that before I read the book. Overall I thought the book was okay, would recommend it more to people who like historical romance rather then did hard historical fiction readers.
Shuffy2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Who can Francesca trust? Which should side should she pledge her alligence?It's 1492, Francesca Giodano takes over her deceased father's position as poisoner to Cardinal Borgia. Rare to be a woman poisoner, but even more odd when she gets dragged into a plot of treachery and murder. It is a monentous conspiracy that could cost her her life and thousands of others. Murder, religion, lust and conspiracy- this book has it all. Such a page turner! I love historical fiction that grabs you and pulls you in, even after the end. Poison did not disappoint. Kudos Sara Poole, looking forward to the next one already!
HunyBadger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to like this book because I enjoy historical fiction and strong female characters. However, I just was never drawn into the plot. In theory, it had everything that would be interesting in a book: intrigue, mystery, scandal, violence, romance, vendetta, but I just always felt removed from the main character, never truly aligned with her concerns. Although I am no expert on the Borgias or the Renaissance, I felt some of the situations were just too far fetched to be believable. I'd pass this onto others as a beach book. Reading it once is enough.
girlwithafacee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Poison was a book that pulls you in, deep into the maze of plots, madmen and religious perversion. Francesca takes over her fathers role as Cardinal Borgia's personal poisoner; takes on the duties of poisoning enemies while protecting the Cardinal, his wives, mistresses, and children from being poisoned. As she takes on this role, the current Pope is dying and a crazed race to claim the Papal throne is lining up. Francesca is battling the loss of her father, a new position, and discovering that her father was not exactly the man she believed he was. As accurate of a historical fiction novel as I could imagine, Poison is a straightforward book on how life was lead- from the viewpoint of a girl who is just figuring out who she really is.
zhukora on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Poison by Sara Poole follows the misadventures of Donna Francesca Giordano, the daughter of Rodrigo Borgia's professional poisoner, as she vies to take his place and avenge his murder, becoming entangled along the way in the morally questionable ambitions of Rodrigo Borgia, the insatiable romantic conquests of his brash son Cesare Borgia, and the unfolding mystery of her father's shadowed past.The novel starts out a bit slowly, as Francesca is prone to exposition and there is a lot for her to lay out before the plot can really get started. However, Francesca is a pleasant and thoughtful protagonist who lends herself readily to suspense, and once the momentum of the violence and drama starts to build, the book is pretty difficult to put down.It seems like this particular breed of historical novel often falls prey to cliche and the desire of authors to create bland, predictable self-insert characters, but I must give Sara Poole credit for ably side-stepping these pitfalls. Although there were some recognizable tropes such as the secret Jewish backgrounds of several of the characters, most other aspects of the story were refreshingly original. For example, the alternating romances between Francesca and Rocco, and Francesca and Cesare are mature and complex, taking into account the adult emotions and concerns suited to each of the characters and their respective situations rather than that variety of hackneyed, fluffy, magical all-encompassing puppy love that a lot of fiction writers indulge in when their characters are not sufficiently rounded out to sustain anything else. I can understand to an extent why this might frustrate readers expecting a love-defeats-all plot, but personally I find it a bit of a relief to read about a heroine who can manage to put her romantic life on the back burner for a chapter or two while more dire circumstances must be dealt with.I do give a bit more credence to the criticisms that the Borgias seem to be a rather absent given the focus on their family the book claims to give. I did feel it was to my advantage that I was already familiar with the story of the Borgias before picking up this book, and I think having a grasp on the larger picture helped make it more tolerable to me that Lucrezia has only a passing presence and that Rodrigo and especially Cesare are not as central to the ongoing action as many of the other characters. Much of what was discussed in the novel about each of the Borgias was framed as allusion to actions and occurrences that happened after the end of Poison's plot, as remembered by the older and wiser Francesca as she narrates her earlier life, which could be understandably confusing for readers with no background knowledge whatsoever about the Borgias (though it seems likely their roles will be fleshed out extensively in the future). From the frequent foreshadowing by narrator Francesca and from the various threads left loose at the end of the book, such as the fate of Morozzi and Francesca's introduction to the secret society Lux, it appears likely that Sara Poole is setting us up for a sequel or possibly a series of novels following the entirety of the Borgia saga. It's evident to me how much love Poole has for the history she writes about, and how much care she puts into her craft, and I look forward to any future episodes in the lives of Francesca Giordano and the Borgias with great anticipation.Buy it, read it, it's good!
Loralthea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had very high hopes for Poison. I have always found myself curious about the Borgias and even more fascinated by the Renaissance; so when I heard this book was available for early reading I jumped on it. However, I am sad to say I found myself rather bored. While the writing was strong and the story interesting enough, I found the depth of the characters extremely lacking. I will be the first to acknowledge that as a reader, I am more interested in character growth than plot, and therefore my statement is completely bias. However, that being said, while the plot was okay, i was so very disappointed that the characters were so lacking I found it hard to care about what happened to them. Sadly, this book was just not my cup of tea, and will most likely sit on my book shelf unfinished as I have lost interest. I would most likely suggest it to someone who wanted a bit of historical-fiction fluff. If you don't want to connect with the characters, and you want to be able to leave them behind at the close of a cover, this might be a good book for you.
kingoftheicedragons on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
texicanwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was provided a copy of the book pre-release date in exchange for my review.There are few books that gather my attention more sharply than this has in recent years!Poison is the story of Il Cardinale Rodrigo Borgia, in the summer of 1492, and the events both prior to and immediately following the death of Pope Innocent VIII on July 25th of that fateful year. And it is the story of Borgia's own poisoner.We are introduced to the ruthlessness of Rodrigo Borgia and his desire to ascend to the papal throne, as well as that of his offspring, the infamous Lucrezia, and the warrior, Cesare.This entire story is told through the eyes of the poisoner, Francesca Giordano, who has followed her murdered father's path into the career of Borgia's poisoner.Murder, mayhem, sex, and bribery run rife as the rivalry for the papal office draws nearer. And only Francesca, and the career her father has trained her for, can bring calm to the day.Based on fact, the fiction work is superb in every sense.I give this a five star rating.