The Orphan of Florence
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In this irresistible historical novel set in the turbulent world of the Medicis, a young woman finds herself driven from pick-pocketing to espionage when she meets a mysterious man.
Giulia has been an orphan all her life. Raised in Florence's famous Ospedale degli Innocenti, her probing questions and insubordinate behavior made her an unwelcome presence, and at the age of fifteen, she was given an awful choice: become a nun, or be married off to a man she didn't love. She chose neither, and after refusing an elderly suitor, Giulia escaped onto the streets of Florence.
Now, after spending two years as a successful pickpocket, an old man catches her about to make off with his purse, and rather than having her carted off to prison he offers her a business proposition. The man claims to be a cabalist, a student of Jewish mysticism and ritual magic, who works for the most powerful families in Florence. But his identity is secret—he is known only as "the Magician of Florence"—and he is in need of an assistant. She accepts the job and begins smuggling his talismans throughout the city.
But the talismans are not what they seem, and neither is the Magician. When Giulia's involvement with him ends with his murder, she's drawn into a treacherous web of espionage and deceit involving the forces of Rome, Naples, and a man known as Lorenzo the Magnificent. Accused of the Magician's murder, Giulia is pursued by the handsome policeman Niccolo, Lorenzo's henchmen, and foreign spies, and in order to survive, she must not only solve the mystery of the mystery of the Magician's murder, but that of her own past.
The Orphan of Florence is a well-written, dark historical fiction that takes place during the turbulent years of the 1400’s, in Florence, Italy.
After two years of surviving on the streets in Florence, disguised as a boy, the orphan, Giulia, was caught pickpocketing an old man. The gentleman, Ser Abramo whom Giulia had stolen from, told the arresting officer, that he would prefer to take the lad into his home, rather than have the boy jailed. Giulia was later informed by Ser Abramo that she would be the new courier. It was dangerous work, but she would be well compensated. What Giulia didn’t realize at the time was that Ser Abramo was the infamous Magician.
Ser Abramo introduced Giulia into his world of magic, intrigue, and peril. Giulia had sworn off caring for people years ago. Loving people only caused agonizing pain, when they left; and they always left. But despite Giulia saying that she didn’t care about, Cecilia, a friend from the orphanage and Tommaso, her six-year-old pickpocketing sidekick, she did. A lot. And although she hated to admit it, she cared deeply for, Ser Abramo, the Magician. There were dangers and dark secrets all around Giulia which she knew nothing about. Unfortunately, everyone Giulia had ever cared about; including herself was in imminent grave danger. Giulia’s life will right itself, but not before her heart breaks, for yet, another person who abandons her.
The Orphan of Florence is an intriguing historical fiction mystery, crafted with enough authentic details that I was transported to Florence Italy, during the year of 1478. Anyone who is interested in Italian history will especially enjoy this book.
Thank you, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley, for my advanced review copy.