Friday, May 14, 2010

The Book of Unholy Mischief - Elle Newmark

Summary: In a world of violence and intrigue, who guards the truth?

It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance, and Venice teems with rumors of an ancient book that holds the secret to unimaginable power. It is an alchemist's dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. Everyone, rich and poor alike, speculates about the long-buried secrets scrawled in its pages and where it could possibly be hidden within the labyrinthine city. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it.

As a storm of intrigue and desire circles the republic that grew from the sea, Luciano, a penniless orphan with a quick wit and an even faster hand, is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired, for reasons he cannot yet begin to understand, as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. There, in the lavish home of the most powerful man in Venice, he is initiated into the chef's rich and aromatic world, with all its seductive ingredients and secrets.

Luciano's loyalty to his street friends and the passion he holds for a convent girl named Francesca remain, but it is not long before he too, is caught up in the madness. After he witnesses a shocking murder in the Palace dining room, he realizes that nothing is as it seems and that no one, not even those he's come to rely on most, can be trusted. Armed with a precocious mind and an insatiable curiosity, Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing open the shutters of his mind, inflame his deepest desires, and leave an indelible mark on his soul. (Summary from book - Image from

My Review: Initially I was offered this book for review, but due to some unforeseen and lamentable circumstances, the book was never sent out. Now, some review copies I can take or leave, but not this one. No, this one I wanted. For a while I waited to see if it would eventually be sent out and tried not to harass the publisher too much, but when I saw a copy just sitting on the shelf at a local library I snapped it up like Ghirardelli left laying around.

The story follows Luciano, a street urchin adopted as an apprentice by the doge’s head chef. While performing menial labor and hoping for promotion, Luciano witnesses some strange activity that leads to an exciting mystery. Throughout this book, Luciano is manipulated by various characters and plagued with mistrust. I was a little irritated when his loyalties changed with nearly every chapter but, irritation aside, I feel his fickleness was in character for someone who spent a majority of his young life on the streets. Chef Ferrero was the picture of kindness and honor, yet it was his tendency to spout heretical theory and his passion for cooking (and interfering) that made him one of my favorite characters.

Even though I reveled in the culinary bits, was pleased by the characters that Newmark created, and really enjoyed reading this book, when I closed it I wasn't satisfied –mostly, but not completely. I wanted a little more mystery and a little more revelation – conflicting desires, to be sure. Some parts of this book (especially in regards to who had the book) were completely obvious, and other parts (like what the book held and how it was coded) were never fully explained at all.

My Rating: 4 Stars, but just barely. For the sensitive reader: The story has one or two briefly crude moments and arrives at some fairly heretical conclusions that might offend the kind of person who was offended by Da Vinci Code (sorry I can’t be more specific). It didn't bother me.

Sum it up: A promising novel that almost lived up to my expectations.


Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

I've been curious about this book...I think it was hyped quite a bit a year ago or so; didn't the author initially self publish? It was on my Goodreads list, but I removed it awhile ago, I may reconsider...

MindySue said...

I really enjoyed the book, but wanted more out of it. I think you would probably like it (but not love it). The author ended up having some medical issues and so her PR tour got cut short (I believe). I'd say it's worth a read.


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