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The Stars Dispose Paperback – 1 Jan 1920
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The story of Tomasso de Befanini, son of the astrologer to the Medicis, whose quest to become Catherine de Medici's master chef is interrupted by war, intrigue, and magic, includes a glossary and recipes for several of the dishes involved. Reprint.
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Unfortunately, the book is seriously brought down by Roessner's overwrought descriptive tone, more characteristic of pulp fantasy and romance novels than what I think of as great fiction. She also has an annoying habit of using characters' thoughts and dialogue as an expository device. I have a feeling that even in Renaissance Florence, people didn't say things like "Today, the young girls will receive decorated branches, in the traditional celebration of the first of May." That's not an exact quote, but it illustrates the style I'm talking about. Why not just tell the reader about the tradition as part of the text, not as part of the dialogue? Do the characters really have to translate Italian phrases to each other for our benefit?
She also uses a cat as sort of a narrative focus, which doesn't work all that well. we are supposed to believe this is some sort of magical cat, and her kittens are imbued with the same magic.
Roessner obviously poured her heart into this book -- the research is meticulously done, and she even includes recipes in the back. Her dedication is very impressive. Unfortunately the writing skill doesn't match up.
The stars dispose, they do not compel.
A rich blend of history and authentic period detail with a touch of mysticism, The Stars Dispose tells the story of young Tommaso de Befanini, born into a Florentine family famed for its fine cooking. Tommaso, only 11 years of age, finds himself struggling with more than learning to properly carve a roast. The city of Florence is being torn asunder by warring factions, and the Befanini are employed by many of the important movers and shakers. This novel teems with famous characters - Michelangelo, Caterina de Medici, and Pope Clement, to name but a few. Roessner is a skillful writer, particular in her flair for description. Where this book falls short is in its plot, which is surprisingly slow and lumbering, ultimately leaving the reader hanging, a device that suggests plans for a sequel. Still, Stars is well worth reading for its atmosphere and winning characters. And if you like reading about fabulous feasts and recipes, open a bottle of your favorite vino, nibble some melone and prosciutto, and curl up with The Stars Dispose.
I am in awe of this author's writing craft. She has the skill to sketch before you a great feast, a magnificent sculpture, a dazzling spot of magic & enchanting cats! I would disappear for hours into the worlds she has created, fed by her well chosen words, authentic details & breadth of view.
If you love historical fantasies with just the right balance of fact & fantasy as to make the read seamless, then this is a book for you. For my full review & eInterview with Michaela Roessner do visit my site [...].