A well-researched historical novel that explores the early career of Niccolò Machiavelli as he hones his talent for political insight and diplomacy in the service of city-state of Florence, Italy. Awarded three stars on Goodreads.
At the start, the year is 1494. Lorenzo Medici has recently died and it’s clear his son does not have the skills to take Lorenzo’s place in ruling Florence. Machiavelli is just finishing his university schooling, eager for Florence to become a republic.
Machiavelli has a natural gift for reading political situations, discerning motivations, and speaking the indirect language of diplomacy. He soon gets a job as an government clerk and begins to get noticed. He starts to take the risk of sharing his observations and opinions and slowly gains a reputation for shrewdness and subtlety.
During the next years, Machiavelli’s reputation grows as he travels around Europe on diplomatic missions, meeting the heavy hitters of his day: the charismatic Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola, Pope Alexander VI (aka Rodrigo Borgia), his soldier-son Cesare, powerful noblewoman Caterina Sforza, France’s invading King Charles VIII, England’s Thomas Cromwell (aide to King Henry VIII), even artist Leonardo da Vinci. You can read in the Afterword about the liberties author Anthony Wildman took in these encounters.
The problem with this novel was a personal one. For me, despite a keen interest in historical fiction, I’m not particularly interested in political intrigue at this level of detail, at this or any other time period. So the endless discussions, posturing, and option-considering that formed so much of the narrative felt tedious to me. Too many white men talking political philosophy, not enough story or action.
I do feel the book would be much more enjoyable for those interested in one of the great political minds the Renaissance. Or for those with an interest in this time period in Italy.
More about the author, Anthony Wildman.