Immortal

Immortal

by Traci L. Slatton

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385339742
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/29/2008
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 1,053,987
Product dimensions: 5.15(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Traci L. Slatton is a graduate of Yale and Columbia, and she also attended the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, sculptor Sabin Howard, whose classical figures and love for Renaissance Italy inspired her to write a novel set during that time period. Immortal is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Immortal


By Traci L. Slatton

Delta

Copyright © 2008 Traci L. Slatton
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780385339742

Chapter One


my name is luca and i am dying. It's true that every man dies, that cities fade and principalities ebb and whole brilliant civilizations are snuffed out into thin scrims of gray smoke. But I have been different-the blessing and the curse of a Laughing God. These last one hundred eighty years, I have been Luca Bastardo, Luca the Bastard, and if I knew little about my origins, I knew about myself that I was exempt from death's call. It was not my doing; my life simply flowed on through the shining city of Florence like the volatile river Arno. The great Leonardo da Vinci once told me that capricious nature took pleasure in creating a man with my lasting youthfulness, to watch the spirit imprisoned within my body struggle with its longing to return to its Source. I don't have the Maestro's brilliance, but in my small opinion, my life has amused the Lord. And if it weren't for the hand of the Inquisitor claiming to do His work, life would use me still.

But now the burns and broken bones, the gangrene putrefying my leg and nauseating me with its odor, curtail my time. It's just as well. I have no wish to ramble on like a braggart, boasting about the great men he befriended, the beautiful women he touched, the battles he fought, the marvels he witnessed, and his one incomparable love. Thosethings are true, and they mark my life, as have wealth and hunger, sickness and war, victory and shame, magic and prophecy. But they are not the reason for my story. My story must be told for other purposes. I offer it to those whose souls long to know the soul of the world. From almost two centuries of living may be learned what matters in life, what is truly valuable upon this earth, and in what music the voice of the Laughing God leaves behind irony and becomes immortal song.

i never knew where i came from. It was as if I woke up on the streets of Florence in 1330, a boy already grown nine years. I was smaller than most physically, perhaps because I never had enough to eat, but alert, of brutal necessity. In those days I slept in alcoves and under bridges and scrounged for dropped soldi during the day. I begged alms from rich women and slid my fingers into the pockets of well-dressed men. I spread a rag at the feet of elders alighting from their carriages on rainy days. I emptied chamber pots into the Arno and cleaned brushes for grooms and chimney sweeps. I climbed up onto high roofs and repaired terra-cotta tiles. I ran errands for a peddler who knew me to be quick and dependable. Sometimes I followed a priest around, chanting Hail Marys and long sections of the Mass in Latin, because I was a natural mimic who could repeat whatever I heard, and it amused the priest into rare Christian charity. I even let some of the older men pull me under the bridge and stroke me, holding my breath while their greedy hands roamed over my back and buttocks. Anything for a coin for a meal. I was always hungry.

One of my favorite activities was scouring the ground at the market for fruit that rolled off carts and stands. Usually it was abandoned as bruised, dirty, and worthless, but I was never that finicky; I always thought a few dark spots made anything more interesting. Sometimes I found dropped coins, and once a pearl-studded bracelet that, sold, kept me in bread and salted meat for a month. I couldn't visit the same market often, because the ufficiale della guardia were always on the lookout for ragamuffins like me and would beat us, or worse, if they caught us. But every week or so I would go early to one of the dozens of markets that served the hundred thousand inhabitants of Florence and let myself be dazzled by the wares. The markets were voluptuous in both scent and appearance: sweet-smelling red apples and piquant speckled apricots, golden rows of thick-crusted breads exuding the warm fragrance of yeast, herb-cured haunches of pig and pink ribs of beef and pale, soft cuts of lamb that smelled like field lavender, thick aromatic wedges of cheese, and clots of yellow-white butter. I glutted my gaze and my nose, promising myself I would one day feast until sated in all of my being. I also calculated how to score precious morsels immediately. Even a few crumbs would stave off the restless night of a groaning belly. Every bite mattered.

My family in those days consisted of two other street urchins of whom I was fond, Massimo and Paolo. Massimo had a clubfoot, droopy ears, and a milky eye that spun off in all directions, and Paolo had the dark cast of a gypsy, reason enough for them to be cast out onto the street. Florence never tolerated imperfection. I myself never knew why I'd been abandoned. Massimo, who was clever, claimed I must be the son of a nobleman's wife by the family friar, a not uncommon mishap. It was he who laughingly dubbed me "Luca Bastardo."

"At least they didn't suffocate you!" he teased me, and we had seen enough dead infants tossed into the gutters to know the truth of his words. Whatever my history, I was lucky to live. Physically, there was nothing wrong with me, other than being small and scrawny. I was perfectly formed in all my parts. My appearance was even pleasing. I'd been told many times that my yellow-red hair and peach skin were beautiful, that their contrast with my dark eyes was compelling. It was not the kind of thing I listened to when the old men were stroking me. I kept myself occupied dreaming about food, then I took their soldi and bought warm rolls and chunks of cured fish to salve my hunger and my unease.

Those early days were filled with simple intentions: to feed myself, to stay warm and dry, to laugh and to play whenever the opportunity arose. There was a purity to my life that I would experience only one other time, more than a century later, and I would prize those later years fiercely because I knew how life could be despoiled.

I often diverted myself by playing board games with clever Massimo and wrestling with strong Paolo, who had a fierce temperament that matched his gypsy heritage. I always lost to my adopted brothers, until one day when the three of us were playing in the grassy Piazza Santa Maria Novella in the western end of the city. It was a fine spring day, with a faint breeze puffing beneath an endless blue sky and playing in ripples across the silvery-blue Arno, the afternoon before the festival of the Annunciation. The powerful and zealous Dominicans liked to preach there, but that day the piazza had been taken over by throngs of people: boys running and playing; mercenary soldiers called condottieri gambling and catcalling; groups of women gossiping, with their girlchildren hanging on their full brocade skirts; wool-workers and shopkeepers strolling out for the midday meal; notaries and bankers manufacturing errands just so they, too, could enjoy the rare day of warmth and high sunshine during Marzo pazzo, crazy March. A group of noblemen's sons raced about, practicing swordplay with the sure prerogative of their station. I couldn't help but envy them, they had what every Florentine wanted: good food and well-made clothes, skill with swords and horses, and the certainty of a fine marriage to strengthen their position in society.

The boys wore fine woolen mantelli and were thrusting and feinting with blunt wooden swords under the watchful eye of their master, who was famed in Florence for his strategic swordplay. I scooted around to better hear his instructions-I had a thirst for learning, and I remembered whatever I heard. Paolo had other ideas. He picked up a stick from the grass and charged at me, chortling wildly and mimicking the boys.

"Bastardo, defend yourself!" Massimo called from a short distance away, tossing a stick to me. I caught it and spun around just in time to deflect Paolo's thrust. It was a lucky save; Paolo hadn't meant to hurt me, but he was slow in the head and often left bruises. He grinned and I gathered he meant to have some fun at the rich boys' expense, so I bowed, and he bowed back. We lofted our fake swords and danced around each other, pretending to be noblemen's sons, mocking them with exaggerated flourishes and foppish prancing. A nearby group of condottieri laughed, a coarse sound full of derision, and the noble boys bristled.

"Let's teach these street bastards a lesson!" the tallest boy cried, charging. Instantly Paolo and I were surrounded by five wooden swords chopping at our sticks. The condottieri cheered. Paolo had a bull's strength and he knocked down two of the boys. I didn't have his brawn, so I ducked under the blows, leaping out of reach. Paolo fell, blood spurting from his nose, and anger flared through me. I swung my stick at the boys in front of me, hacking futilely, and the stick broke in half. Taunting laughter rose up. Now the condottieri were laughing at me. It made me angrier and I lashed out wildly with what was left of my stick. It was a stupid move. Two boys cut sideways at me at the same time. I was thrown onto my back, ribs sore on both sides and the breath frozen in my chest. The condottieri guffawed.

"Boy, you're going to get yourself killed," said an old man, bending over me. By then a sizable crowd had gathered. Florentines relished nothing more than a lopsided brawl.

"Those boys hurt my friend!" I cried. "And they're laughing at me!" I pointed at the condottieri.

The old man was short and stout and homely, but had lively eyes that seemed to take in everything at once and to understand it all instantly. "Men laugh because God laughs, and right now, God is laughing at you," he said, with a clear-eyed look of empathy. It was a look I'd never before received, a look that made me almost feel like a real person, and his words were graven on my heart. God laughs, I thought with wonder. Yes, that makes sense of what I've seen on the streets. Those long-ago words have, in fact, made sense of my entire life.

"I don't like when anyone laughs," I sniffled, "and I want to make them stop hurting me and my friend!"

"That broken stick of yours is pitiful." The old man shrugged.

"It's all I've got!"

He shook his head and squatted beside me. "Boy, the solid things you can hold in your hands are never all you've got. They're the least of what belong to you. The qualities inside you, those are what you've really got to defend yourself with."

"All I've got inside me is the street!"

"If that's true, it's a Florentine street! We Florentines have great souls. We're imaginative, creative, spirited; we make the best artists and merchants. That's why we're famous for our sharp wit and intelligence, our ingegno. You have it, too, or you wouldn't survive on the streets!" His eyes twinkled, taking in without judgment my rags and filth. "When you're faced with superior strength and numbers, when you're faced with a challenge, you must go inside yourself, find that ingegno, and use it."

"How?" I asked suspiciously, wrapping my arms around my aching rib cage.

"I saw you listening to the sword master before this fracas started. You're clever, if you pay attention to people who know more than you do. You can come up with a sideways strategy, something unexpected, to defend yourself. Surprise, strategy, and subterfuge, those are your weapons!" He gripped my shoulder in warm encouragement.

"Come on, bastarda girl," sneered one of the noble boys who'd knocked me down. "Let's see you wield your broken stick!"

"Against three of them?" I said sotto voce to the man. Fear rippled in my gut and I had to fight to still the quiver in my chin. "They're big and well fed!"

"Ingegno." He shrugged. I nodded and lurched to my feet. He patted my shoulder.

"Here you go, girlie!" One of the boys kicked the broken stick to me. I eyed it and instead of picking it up, I mimicked panic. It wasn't a stretch; I was terrified. The three boys would thrash me to gore if they caught me. A crowd of onlookers circled us, with the ragged line of condottieri standing to the side. Shrieking like a girl, I ran around the boys and behind the condottieri as if fleeing. The crowd railed with hilarity to see me running away, and I took the opportunity to relieve an unheeding condottiere of his dagger. It was a quick, practiced lift out of his belt. Then I charged out from behind the soldiers with the dagger raised high.

"Look, the little bastard's got a tiny bastard sword," quipped one of the condottieri. The dagger I held was kin to the mighty spada da una mano e mezzo, the longsword also known as the bastard sword. The other mercenaries howled with laughter at his wit.

The three noble boys simply stared at the dagger, while I ran over to stand beside blood-spattered Paolo, who still lay on the ground, moaning. "Come on!" I challenged, gesturing with the sharp point of the blade. "Who wants to feel my broken stick now? Wary and suddenly unsure, the boys stood frozen and mute. None of them wanted to feel the dagger's prick. It was a standoff.

"Come, boys, you've had enough fun; your master will want to school you," the old man called dryly, allowing the boys to stand down with dignity. They muttered sullenly but dropped their swords and knelt to help their comrades. The sword master, a big, bearded man with hulking arms and thighs, walked by and thumped my chest so hard that I rocked back on my feet.

"Clever." He smiled. "You can come watch whenever I'm training these dunderheads. From a distance, though." He bowed his head to the old man and murmured, "Master." The old man inclined his head, and then turned to me.

"What's inside you is the gate to everything." The old man smiled. "Remember that."

"Maybe God won't laugh at me so much if I use my ingegno," I said shyly, awed at the attention from this stranger who commanded even a famous sword master's respect.

"God just laughs, boy, it's not about you. It has something to do with how life is a divine comedy." He stroked his beard. "Now give the dagger back to the soldier, or your ingegno will win you some fine blows to the head." I laughed and ran over to the hapless condottiere, who hadn't even felt me lift his dagger. I offered it to him hilt first, and he took it with an elaborate bow to me, hand over his heart and head swept low. I bowed back, copying him, and the condottieri laughed again, this time with approval. Almost dizzy with pride, I ran back to help Paolo, who was struggling to sit up. I gave him my hand and he rose to his feet grinning.

Continues...

Excerpted from Immortal by Traci L. Slatton Copyright © 2008 by Traci L. Slatton. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Immortal 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Disturbing, arousing and full of twists and turns!!! This novel brought me through sadness, grief, through time and how timeless humanity really is. Traci L. Slatton wove a fantastic tapestry of love, revenge, carnal cruelty and hope. If you haven't yet read it, grab a copy today and indulge your senses to a vivid world as revealed by Luca Bastardo!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book not only had me questioning who i was as a person but who we are as a civilization. It rocked me to my core. It makes the reader understand that suffering, may be cruel and heartbreaking, but in the end makes us who we are. I look forward to reading more from this author who uses history as a battle ground for her fantasy story. This book was completley enjoyable and i applaud this author!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has a feminine cover but men love it, too. It grabs you at page 1 and never lets you go. Luca Bastardo is magnificent, the story is compelling, and I've heard it will be a movie. I can't wait to see it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Black Death, The Inquisition, Jews and Witchery ! Great artist, Magestry and the secrets of religious faith and science.. If you don't pick up this book and get lost in it you will miss out on a great journey.. Love it 'Rhode Island '
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the best books I have read. I wanted so badly to make the 27 chapters last longer then they did but I just could not lay it down. I read it in just three days. I stayed up into the later hours of the night reading 'knowing just how early work was coming' just so I could enjoy the bitter sweetness of this novel! The end of it is tragic and yet where there is despair the light still shines bright. If you don¿t have this book, BUY IT NOW¿.its that great! Bravo to the author and I hope that the author will write another one soon. By the way this book made Leonardo da Vinci much more real to me as a person. Just outstanding!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms. Slatton's combined use of history, fact, and fantasy is tantalizing and mind gripping. Her characters are each sharply defined and believable. The reader grows right along with Luca -- experiencing his triumphs and pain. I found myself 'rationing' the chapters to make it last longer. A fine novel and a GREAT read!
zimbawilson on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This is a very impressive debut novel from Traci Slatton. The main character Lucas, goes from an orphan living on the streets of Florence to befriending Leonardo da Vinci 140 years later. His lifelong quest is to find out what happened to parents and how it is he has lived so long without aging. The novel moves a very good pace considering all the ground it covers. Slatton does a remarkable job of depicting the time of Rennaisance Italy and cleverly including Lucas in some important historical changes. Slatton obviously has a true passion for the art and history of Florence. This only furthers what in the end is a wonderful novel about love, hope and salvation.
chmessing on LibraryThing 11 months ago
It's pretty rare that I don't finish a book I start - but I had to put this one aside. I had high hopes for this book and kept thinking it would take a turn for the better - but it didn't and I'm terribly disappointed!A few weeks after I wrote the above review, my dog perhaps really said it best - he took out some pent up rage on the book and chewed up the front cover and first few pages. And I really couldn't yell at him for it - this book deserved it.
schmadeke on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I went into Immortal thinking it was going to be pretty straight-forward historical fiction. It is so much more than that (which should have been obvious from the title.) There is a mystical, supernatural element to Traci Slatton's debut novel and it flirts with time travel, too. While both require a certain suspension of belief on the part of the reader, I enjoyed the extra dimension they added to the story.Luca, the 'immortal' main character was extremely well-developed. He was forgiveably flawed and easy to relate to. Slatton gives the reader other memorable, sympatheic characters. As Luca moves through is supernaturally long life, he gathers friends and enemies, and I loved the friends as much as I despised the enemies.Immortal provides a vivid glimpse of Florence at a turbulent stage in its history. Several significant events are interwoven into the plot: the Black Death, the Inquisition, the rise of the powerful de Medici family, and the cultural revolution we know today as The Renaissance.At certain places, I felt a little bogged down by the author's writing style, usually during the discussions of art and alchemy. Both subjects had their place in the novel, but the way they were handled interupted the flow of the plot and the book could just have been tighter and more succint in these areas.From the beginning, Slatton used foreshadowing to suggest that things would turn out badly for Luca. However, the ending still managed to surprise and evoke emotion as she brought together various elements, including the mysteries of Luca's parentage and his immortal nature, in a masterful and powerful way.
DevourerOfBooks on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This book is perhaps better classified as historical fantasy, rather than historical fiction, with Luca¿s near immortality - in addition to simply having an extraordinarily long life-span, he is also impervious to disease and heals amazingly quickly - his alchemical workings, and his ability to heal others. Given that, it was still an amazingly rich and, as far as I could tell, largely historically accurate look at life in Florence between the 13th and 15th centuries. I was completely caught up in Slatton¿s story and willing to suspend disbelief for the more fantasy/magic aspects of the plot due to the realism of her Florence.This was a great read and something I definitely recommend.
MoiraStirling on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Meh. It wasn't awful, and it wasn't stellar. A lot of the dialogue is stilted and the men sound like women. (To explain myself, I was very conscious that I was reading male dialogue from the mind of a woman...) I did find myself skipping portions that did not seem to add to the story (mostly tidbits of Slatton's research that she found enthralling), but it was an interesting plot, and the search for Maddalena was vaguely intriguing. Not a stinker of a first effort.
KevinJoseph on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Traci Slatton's first novel, Immortal, is an impressive piece of historical fiction, with an intriguing fantastical bent. Growing up as an orphan on the streets of fourteenth-century Florence, Luca Bastardo realizes that he's different from ordinary boys. Blessed with extraordinary physical perfection, startling regenerative abilities, and a glacially-slow biological clock, Luca struggles in vain to track down information about his lost parents and a lineage that seems to be linked to the mysterious Cathars. Betrayed by a friend, Luca is sold to a cruel brothel owner, forcing him to endure years of abuse and degradation. Only when Florence is decimated by the Black Death, decades later, does Luca manage to escape his bondage and turn his fortunes around. Luca's enjoyment of his newfound wealth and comfortable lifestyle is tempered, however, by a vivid prophesy in which he's forced to choose between immortality and the true love of a woman. As he cultivates friendships and alliances with various Renaissance figures like Leonardo da Vinci and the Medicis, seeks to master the secrets of alchemy, and searches for his soul mate, Luca's agelessness attracts the attention of sadistic persecutors at a time when the Renaissance is giving way to the Inquisition. As one might expect in an epic spanning nearly two centuries that's brimming with authentic historical detail, Immortal has a density and pacing that requires patience and perseverance on the reader's part. The writing, while somewhat workmanlike, melodramatic, and overly-reliant on dialogue tags and explanation points to convey emotion, is precise and well-edited. I'm eager to see what this talented author will be able to accomplish once she sheds some of these conventional constraints and unleashes her full artistic talent.
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TeaTime1SK More than 1 year ago
This book had me soul searching. I loved Luca's spirit. The book changed my view on life.
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Sequel........please!!
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Olivea More than 1 year ago
I have recently found myself unable to locate a book worth reading, it seemed that only mediocre stuff was being put on the shelves. I could not find a book that had any quality, any substance. Then I came across Slatton's first novel and fell in love. If you are looking for a book that will give you that warm, fuzzy feeling when you're done this is not it. It is a novel that follows the seemingly dark and unfortunate life of Luca Bastardo, a boy who doesn't know his origins but he is determined to make a way for himself in the world. He befriends the famous artist, Giotto as a young boy on the streets of Florence and his life is never the same. It leads you on a wonderfully colorful and desperate search for his promised love, his parents and the meaning of life. Luca is a truly well-developed character and you find yourself wishing for his triumphs and mourning the loss of each of his friends in his unusually long lifeline. This book captures the dark essence of Poe, the thought provoking ideas of Wilde and Slatton's own flare for mixing fact with fiction. She didn't create Luca, he was shaped by each and every event in his life and these are the spectacular jewels that she shows us. I found myself endlessly captivated by Luca and rooting for a character as never before. I bought this book used and I can't even comprehend why anyone would want to lose this from their shelf. A truly magnificent from the very first line to the very last.
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