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The Master of Verona Paperback – 16 Sep 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 569 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (16 Sept. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312382030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312382032
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 4 x 21.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,294,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A debut historical novel peopled by Dante and other Italian
Renaissance figures, along with reimagined Montagues and Capulets.

In September 1314, Padua is at war with Verona, which is flourishing under
the rule of the wily Francesco "Cangrande" della Scala. Although Cangrande
is technically overlord of several cities including Padua, the latter seeks
to regain control of Vicenza, now governed by Cangrande's brother-in-law
and thus allied with Verona. To achieve theirs aims, the Paduan lord
Giacomo "il Grande" da Carrara and his nephew Marsilio join forces with
Count Vincigeurra da San Bonifacio, a nobleman banished from Verona and an
enemy of Cangrande's family. As the Carraras and the Count attack a
Veronese suburb, Cangrande hosts a wedding party for his nephew and
welcomes exiled Florentine poet Dante Alaghieri [sic] and his two sons.
Elder son Pietro, the novel's de facto protagonist, gets swept up in
Cangrande's subsequent routing of Padua. Warming to the excitement of
battle, as well as the companionship of young aristocrat Romeo Mariotto
Montecchio and newly titled Antonio "Antony" Capecelatro, Pietro saves
Cangrande's life and captures Marsilio. Pietro is knighted for his bravery,
but he also sustains an injury and observes tensions building between his
friends over Marsilio's cousin Gianozza. Betrothed to Antony but enamored
of Mariotto, Gianozza reignites the feud between the Montecchi and the
Capulletti. (Shakespeare anglicized both families' names for Romeo &
Juliet.) After Mariotto and Gianozza elpoe, a duel between unexpected
principals erupts and Pietro must depart Verona, leaving his newly arrived
sister Antonia in charge of their father as he pens Purgatorio. Pietro has
been enlisted to find the man who repeatedly attempts to abduct little
Cesco, Cangrande's illegitimate son. Since Cesco is believed to be the
fabled savoir of Italy, much depends on Pietro when the kidnapper succeeds
at last, but the machinations of court may be harder to stomach than
anything conceived by adversaries.

Intricate plotting, well-staged scenes, and colorful descriptions enhance
head-spinning but lively entertainment. -- Kirkus

Upon the death of his elder brother in 1314, Pietro Alaghieri, 17,
is thrust headlong into the post of scion to his father, the famous poet
Dante, in this rollicking historical debut from Shakespearean actor Blixt.
In trying to keep up with his razor-sharp father and their new patron, the
scintillating and brilliant Francesco della Scalla (known as "Cangrande"),
Pietro finds qualities in himself that surprise him. Cangrande may or may
not be the prophesied "Greyhound" who is to cast out evil and usher in a
new world under God--many seek the role. Meanwhile, Pietro's two best
friends, Mariotto and Antonio, are pushed to the edge of rekindling an
ancient blood feud by their joint love of a woman, which stretches Pietro's
loyalties to their limits. The precipitous ending, marked with dizzying
revelations by the protagonists, do nothing to mar a novel of intricate
plot, taut narrative, sharp period detail and beautifully realized
characters. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All
rights reserved. -- From Publishers Weekly --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

Romeo and Juliet is the greatest love story of all time.

And every story has a beginning...

In 1314, seventeen year old Pietro Alighieri travels to Verona with
his father, in infamous poet Dante, at the invitation of the city's leader,
the legendary Francesco "Cangrande" della Scala. A sneak attack from Padua
leads Pietro into his first battle, fighting alongside the charismatic
Cangrande, and into a tight friendship with Mariotto Montecchio and Antonio
Capulletto. Behind the scenes, repeated attempts are made against the life
of a child believed to be Cangrande's illegitimate son and possible heir.

Pietro is drawn into the web of intrigue around the child and the
tension building between Mariotto and Antonio over a woman betrothed to one
and in love with the other - a situation that will sever a friendship,
divide a city, and ultimately lead to the events of the best known tragic
romance in the world.

Inspired by the plays of Shakespeare, the poetry of Dante, and the
events of history, The Master Of Verona is a compelling novel of politics,
loyalty, conspiracy, and star-crossed romance. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

See all Product Description

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I started The Master of Verona, I had no intention of reading a 560 page book in three days. I had other things to do.

I read the book instead.

The book's scope of topics is as broad and intricate as a medieval tapestry; just when you think you've seen it all, Blixt draws your eye to a new detail as compelling as the last. There's Pietro, son of Dante, learning to become a knight under the shadow of his famous father. There's medieval Italian politics as vicious as anything you see on The Sopranos. There's great female characters like Antonia Alighieri and Katerina Della Scala using words as devastatingly as the men use swords. There's the historical figure of Cangrande attacking a neighboring city in a battle sequence as vivid as those you find in Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books. There's a horse race that makes a NASCAR crash look tepid and a duel that only a writer who's also a fight choreographer and swordsman himself could write. Blixt also throws in a mysterious child, assassination attempts, oracular prophecies, and a villain as curiously loathsome as one from Dickens or Dumas. All of this should collapse into an unreadable mess, but Blixt's well-honed prose, characters, and narrative line turned it instead into my favorite beach book of summer 2007. Oh, and if that weren't good enough, throughout the book, you come to empathize with the fathers of both Romeo and Juliet and watch as their friendship turns to hate. I can't wait for his next book.
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Format: Hardcover
I have either read or been part of too many Shakespeare prouctions, and to be honest, Romeo and Juliet is far from my favorite play. In fact, I would have to say it is my least favorite. Granted, many swooning teens are magnets to the star-crossed-lover thing, but frankly it just makes me wretch. This is one of many reasons I so enjoyed Blixt's debut book.

While the jacket cover informs us of the Veronese tie-ns to the Shakespeare's play, the book itself is about an astonishingly realized, and human, Dante. Whereas Bolt could be accused of draining some of the complexity of Sir Thomas More in favour his ideals, Blixt is content to let Dante's eccentricities explain his greatness. It is refreshing to read an historical novel that doesn't pander to either Victorian or 21st century expectations of protagonist behavior. The realization of Pietro, Dante's second son, is quite strong in this regard as well. And Romeo and Juliet is hardly the only play of Shakespeares that is referenced -- all the Italian plays get a passing note. Now if he could somehow work in the lesser characters of "All's Well That Ends Well" in his next book, I would be quite happy.

A word of warning to British readers. Anglophilic historical expressions are eschewed for Americanisms, which too, is refreshing. After years of reading historical fiction, I have become jaded and have expected all my European historical figures to some how favour exclamations like "talley-ho." As this story is Italian, the emotions ae much more on the suface and both quick and severe - much more suited to the American, rather than English, pace.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was a real page turner for me. Having visited the city several Times I am familiar with a number of the places mentioned in the book also other cities that play a part in the story. The characters came alive as the tale progressed though I did find the relationship between the various players in the story a little confusing at times. The descriptions of scenes in the area were vivid, I was there!! Clothes people wore, I could see the vivid colours, I was riding along side and running along side in the races. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, so much so I bought the two following books in the series and am looking forward to the next one. If you enjoy fast paced historical read, you'll enjoy this.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8f15f9fc) out of 5 stars 96 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8eff18a0) out of 5 stars Favorite Beach Book of Summer 2007 5 Sept. 2007
By Scott Kennedy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
When I started The Master of Verona, I had no intention of reading a 560 page book in three days. I had other things to do.

I read the book instead.

The book's scope of topics is as broad and intricate as a medieval tapestry; just when you think you've seen it all, Blixt draws your eye to a new detail as compelling as the last. There's Pietro, son of Dante, learning to become a knight under the shadow of his famous father. There's medieval Italian politics as vicious as anything you see on The Sopranos. There's great female characters like Antonia Alighieri and Katerina Della Scala using words as devastatingly as the men use swords. There's the historical figure of Cangrande attacking a neighboring city in a battle sequence as vivid as those you find in Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books. There's a horse race that makes a NASCAR crash look tepid and a duel that only a writer who's also a fight choreographer and swordsman himself could write. Blixt also throws in a mysterious child, assassination attempts, oracular prophecies, and a villain as curiously loathsome as one from Dickens or Dumas. All of this should collapse into an unreadable mess, but Blixt's well-honed prose, characters, and narrative line turned it instead into my favorite beach book of summer 2007. Oh, and if that weren't good enough, throughout the book, you come to empathize with the fathers of both Romeo and Juliet and watch as their friendship turns to hate. I can't wait for his next book.
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f84ac94) out of 5 stars A good story, but... 15 Nov. 2008
By Marina B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have just finished 'The Master of Verona' and I must say I've a sort of bittersweet taste in my mouth.
First things first: I am a Veronese and for us tales of Cangrande e Dante are the stories we grew up with, almost every corner of the old town is linked to them in some way, so I'm a bit sensitive about a novel featuring both of them.

I like history and I like historical novels, and I realize that novels take liberties with history to tell a good story, and The Master of Verona *is* a good story, but, there are a few things that marred my enjoyment.

The use of Italian in the novel is often awkward,for instance no one would say 'Signore Montecchio' in addressing another, it would be either 'Signor Montecchio' (rater modern-sounding) or, in the old way, 'Messer Montecchio'. It probably doesn't mean much for the average reader in English, but for someone who knows Italian this sort of repeated little mistakes is comparable to the irritation of driving over a bumpy road.

In chapter 17 (page 218 of the trade paperback ) at the beginning of the horse Palio, a rider utters, in Italian, what is defined immediately after as a 'joyful curse'. I believe Mr. Blixt was somehow misled, since what the character says is, in fact, a very strong blasphemy. I do not object to strong language when it has a reason to be there, and mr. Blixt's use of it is definitely not gratuitous, so this faux-pas (I don't think it was intentional)definitely stands out.

I like many characters in the book and I feel their relations and their development are well done, Pietro is a likeable protagonist, young Cesco is intriguing, Immanuel Ben Solomon and Gemma Donati have interesting cameos, Cangrande is the Cangrande we in Verona are proud of...up to the last 20 pages.
I felt that I was led to like Cangrande, almost revere him, until the final dialogue with Katarina. In a way I think I felt just like Pietro did: betrayed, if this was mr. Blixt's aim no doubt he succeded, but that's not really how I like to feel at the end of a book.

A last note to those who wonder after reading 'The Master of Verona'. Scholars have debated for centuries about the real meaning of the 'Veltro' prophecy in Dante's Inferno, lots of interpretations have been proposed, there isn't and never has been a consensus, Dante's other writings don't shed any light on the matter.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ef33b64) out of 5 stars Brilliant mix of history and Shakespeare 10 Aug. 2007
By Christopher M. Walsh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has it all: adventure, intrigue, drama, duels, battles, and a little sex thrown in for good measure. And the characterizations are extraordinary. If Mr. Blixt had not done such an amazing job building such complete, three-dimensional characters, it would be hard to believe that such intriguing figures as Cangrande, his sister Katerina or the fascinating Antonia Alaghieri actually existed. As a bonus, the narrative is liberally peppered with appearances by some of William Shakespeare's most famous Italian characters, and we see how the turmoil of northern Italy at the beginning of the Renaissance led to the famous feud at the heart of "Romeo and Juliet."

One aspect that I particularly enjoyed was the characters' various dispositions on astrology, which plays a central role in the novel. Given the time period, it is fascinating to watch as a culture begins to shrug off the mysticism of its past.

It is a wonder that more books don't employ the setting and characters of David Blixt's debut novel. Between the people and locales which inspired the works of William Shakespeare and the historical personages of Dante and Cangrande della Scala, I am amazed that more writers have not mined this period more thoroughly. That said, I wonder if there are very many who could do it better than "Master of Verona."
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9dbb1ce4) out of 5 stars What an exceptional story 25 Sept. 2007
By Armchair Interviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Have you ever wondered why the Montagues and Capulets of Romeo and Juliet began their famous feud? David Blixt has, and in answer, he gives us The Master of Verona.

Yet, The Master of Verona isn't so much about the feud (though it is in there) as it is about Congrand della Scala. Told through the perspective of Pietro Alagheri, son of Dante (The Inferno), we catch a slice of Veronese life on the brink of Renaissance.

The cast of characters is enormous (and, thankfully, it is provided at the beginning of the book). Fictional characters intermingle with historical figures as well as Shakespearian figures. They all have names like Gargano Montecchio and Marsilio Da Carrara, and if it isn't enough that most of the names sound like someone else's, they all have nicknames as well. All that is said to say that to read this book is a commitment. But if you'll hang in there for a few chapters (and refer regularly to the cast), it will be worth it.

I am rather unfamiliar with this time period, so I can't be certain, but this novel seems very well researched and accurate to the times. Even the author will tell you that he potentially took some liberties with the life of Dante and the work of Shakespeare, though not direct contradictions to historical record.

I found this to be a highly engaging and exceptional story. It took a good bit for me to get into it and keep track of the characters, but once I did, it was thoroughly enjoyable. It is an intimidating work. But even if you aren't familiar with the period, their weapons, their manners and their customs, you will be before you are finished.

Armchair Interviews says: This read is well worth the effort.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ecd94e0) out of 5 stars A Good Story but ... 20 Mar. 2010
By Amadeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
First, the positive side. The plot was very interesting and kept me coming back for more. I found myself very interested to see what was going to happen next, a true page turner. Blixt also has a real knack for character development. Pietro, Little Cesco, and Cangrande all were very memorable characters and even the supporting cast were well rounded and interesting. Blixt's sense of the period and his ability to evoke it to make the reader breath the air of Verona in the 1300's also was strong.

Now, the negatives. He occasionally peppers the text with little snippets of Italian, but these are sometimes wrong. I personally like when authors do this, I feel it adds to the sense of time and place, but you got to get it right. He also interjects modernisms like "preggers" that I found distracting and anachronistic. Along the same lines, he incomprehensibly translates "Antonio" as "Anthony" and "Scaligeri" as "Scaliger" but leaves the rest of the names in Italian. I felt this deluded from the authentic feel of the setting, either stay with the originals or translate them all.

My biggest complaint though, is the treatment poor Dante Alighieri gets. His Dante is ridiculously unbelievable, even to the point that his Dante spells "ALIGHIERI" "ALAGHIERI" with an "A" instead of the correct "I". He tries to justify this, but as an amateur Dantista I found this annoying and it is repeated constantly throughout the book. He does deserve credit, however, for mentioning at the end of the book that he basically threw historical accuracy overboard with Dante.

His treatment of Romeo and Juliet is equally inaccurate, but as they were not real people, or if they were Shakespeare's story is already unhistorical, that his liberties are less annoying (at least to me).

All in all, the book would have been much better (four or five stars) if his cast was all invented from whole cloth rather than scandalously misrepresenting real historical people. I was left with the feeling that Blixt wanted to write a historical fiction set in Early Renaissance / Late Medieval Italy and just used Dante and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet as a way of promoting and selling his book. As his character's have little to do with Shakespeare or Dante he really only added their names to his invented characters. This made me feel a bit cheated.

In the end, though, if the above negatives are not things that would bother you, then buy this book because it is quite a yarn.
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