The Master of Verona, the first novel in David's Blixt's Star Cross'd trilogy, is an epic work of historical fiction set at the outset of the Italian Renaissance. At the centre of the novel is Pietro Alaghieri, son of the renowned poet Dante, a young man whose courage and steadfastness in battle bring him to the attention of Verona's much vaunted ruler, Cangrande della Scala. Trusted by both Cangrande and Cangrande's sister, Katerina, Pietro finds himself drawn deep into the political intrigues of his leader, including efforts to discover the mastermind behind a ruthless plot to kidnap Cangrande's infant heir. Pietro also finds himself caught in the increasing enmity developing between his two closest friends, a once inseparable pair who have fallen in love with the same woman. What follows is the start of a feud that will threaten the stability of Verona itself and will lead to the development of one of the greatest love stories of all-time.
This novel has many strengths, not the least of which are well-developed characters, an engaging storyline and rich detail that brings Northern Italy and its often warring City-States vividly to life. The novel's hero, Pietro, is easy to root for, as is his father Dante, whose genius with words is clearly evident. Cangrande, one of Renaissance Italy's greatest rulers, is characterized as a formidable warrior and brilliant strategist, making it easy to understand how he earns Pietro's respect and loyalty. Although billed as a novel about the origins of the Romeo & Juliet story, this aspect of the plot is in fact secondary to that of the much larger machinations of Cangrande's Verona. As a result, the foundation of the feud between the Montecchio's and the Capulletto's (aka the Montague's and the Capulet's) is successfully placed into the much larger political context of the era.
David Blixt's writing style is such that the book's numerous characters, their exploits and their often complicated and intertwined relationships can be followed with ease. In this respect, Blixt's writing is reminiscent of historical novelist Sharon Kay Penman's, and I encourage any fan of Penman's epic novels to give this book a try. Furthermore, Blixt's prose is of such quality that, despite being close to 600 pages long, the novel unfolds swiftly. The Master of Verona is followed by Voice of the Falconer and Fortune's Fool, both of which I am now eager to read.
Highly recommended to all fans of historical fiction.
Note: A copy of this novel was provided to me by David Blixt as part of his 5-book virtual book tour.”