This is the story of a truly terrifying family — relentlessly ambitious, manipulative, power mad, and violent. Arranging someone’s death is done as casually as ordering a meal and incest is nothing more than a minor embarrassment.
Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) is the family mastermind, who lets nothing stand in the way of his family’s success. His son Juan (Rodrigo’s favorite) is a true sociopath. Another son, Cesare becomes the most feared man in Europe. Lucrezia, Rodrigo’s only daughter, has an historical reputation equal to her brothers. But it is Gortner’s contention that she was an innocent, her family’s pawn, forced into three marriages to further the family fortunes. Rodrigo’s supposed fourth child, Gioffre, a minor character in this novel, seems to be of questionable parentage.
The book is an engrossing glimpse into Borgia family dynamics and it shows us a group of people ruthless and totally amoral — who can justify brutality of any kind simply by believing they act in the interests of their own family. And there are some gruesome events described. Of course, horrible characters do make for a fascinating and suspenseful read, don’t they?
You may also be interested in my reviews of other books by C. W. Gortner: