Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 372 (includes reading guide)
Synopsis (from the publisher): At the dawn of the 17th century, Murano glassmakers are celebrated, revered and imprisoned by the Venetian government. Sophia Fiolario, the daughter of a glass making maestro, has no desire for marriage, finding her serenity in the love of her family and the beauty of the glass. But the life Sophia loves is threatened and she’s thrust into the opulent world of the Venice court. Amidst political and religious intrigue Sophia must do anything to protect herself, her family and the secret of the glass.
Review: The glassmakers of Murano create beautiful works of art which are highly prized. So highly in fact that the Venetian government keeps them virtual prisoners and has enacted laws to prevent them from leaving – to defy the law can literally mean death. Sophia is the nineteen year old daughter of one of the most successful glassmakers on Murano. She has always been fascinated by the glass and has spent years watching her father and secretly learning the trade (also against the law). With no son to take over the business and with his health failing, Sophia’s father reluctantly agrees its time for her to marry and he works out a deal with a noble, but poor family.
But Sophia is not the only one with a secret and as her father alludes to those of her betrothed, Sophia is determined to find out what they are in hopes of avoiding the marriage and a life without love as well as preventing her mother and sisters from being carted off to a nunnery. Along the way she meets the handsome young Teodoro Gradenigo (who is also a poor noble’s son), falls in love, and becomes caught up in the religious and political intrigues surrounding the scientific discoveries of Galileo.
Although I enjoyed Sophia’s story, I thought there were a couple of flaws with the book. The first third or so of the book is slow as the author sets up the political dynamics of the Venetian government. Not knowing a lot about Italian history, the information is helpful in understanding some of the plots undercurrents, but I wish it had been more interesting. I also became rather quickly annoyed by the liberal use of Italian words. Although there may be some words for which there is no English equivalent, there were way too many instances of people using Italian in one part of a sentence and English for the rest (simple example: “This way, per favore”). I don't really think people talk like this when conversing with others who use the same language and it really was destracting and at times interfered with my enjoyment of the story. If you are going to write the book in English, then please, use English. Adding to the aggravation is the lack of a glossary defining what the Italian words mean.
The second half of the book moved very quickly and the Fiolario family has to make a decision that will forever change their lives. The love story between Sophia and Teo is rather charming (the one main love scene is pretty tame) and not everyone is as they would appear to be. The last few chapters were intriguing – especially the discovery of the family’s benefactor and although I was pretty sure I knew who it was, I thought there might be one other possibility so I wasn’t 100% sure - I'm not going to give it away though!
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author for review.
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