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The Serpent and the Pearl

by Kate Quinn

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22416121,363 (3.91)26
Fiction. Romance. Thriller. Historical Fiction. HTML:One powerful family holds a city, a faith, and a woman in its grasp‚??from the national bestselling author of Daughters of Rome and Mistress of Rome.

Rome, 1492. The Holy City is drenched with blood and teeming with secrets. A pope lies dying and the throne of God is left vacant, a prize awarded only to the most virtuous‚??or the most ruthless. The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web‚?¶

Vivacious Giulia Farnese has floor-length golden hair and the world at her feet: beauty, wealth, and a handsome young husband. But she is stunned to discover that her glittering marriage is a sham, and she is to be given as a concubine to the ruthless, charismatic Cardinal Borgia: Spaniard, sensualist, candidate for Pope‚??and passionately in love with her.

Two trusted companions will follow her into the Pope's shadowy harem: Leonello, a cynical bodyguard bent on bloody revenge against a mysterious killer, and Carmelina, a fiery cook with a past full of secrets. But as corruption thickens in the Vatican and the enemies begin to circle, Giulia and her friends will need all their wits to survive in the world of
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» See also 26 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
I enjoyed this book just as much on my second read through as I did on my first. This was the book that made me fall in love with Kate Quinn. Bringing together a cast of unlikely characters - a runaway female cook, a dwarf who throws knives, and the famed Giulia La Bella as the pope's mistress - Quinn weaves a delightful and fascinating story of the Italian Renaissance.

First and foremost, know that this book will make you salivate. Since one of the narrators is Carmelina the cook, you will be inundated with descriptions of Renaissance food in the best way possible. While Quinn is quick to point out in her Historical Note it would have been highly unlikely for a woman to be a professional chef, she nevertheless conjures up a plausible sequence of events that have allowed Carmelina to be a cook, and I have loved learning about various details about daily life in the process. That's another thing that Quinn does exceptionally well. Her attention to detail in regards to how her characters would have lived every day immerses readers into the story. You feel like you're not only enjoying yourself but learning something.

Carmelina becomes the employee of Giulia Farnese, more of less. In this rendition of the Borgias, Giulia is seen as a gorgeous, naive, and pleasure-loving young woman between the ages of 18 and 20. Whether this is true or not, I'm not sure. I had fun reading about her, nonetheless. It was genius of Quinn to use Giulia as one of her narrators. It anchors the story between the other two narrators, both of whom are fictional. Through Giulia, we meet all of the infamous Borgias: indomitable Rodrigo, sly Cesare, lecherous Juan, and an initially unspoiled if somewhat vain Lucrezia. It is never a dull moment when she is telling the story.

The third narrator is Leonello, a dwarf assassin and Giulia's bodyguard. He seems directly inspired from Tyrion of Game of Thrones, and I doubt you'll be able to picture anybody else but Peter Dinklage as the character. Both are scholarly characters with a sharp tongue. Leonello is also on a mission to discover who murdered his friend Anna, as well as the other low women of Rome. With Leonello, Quinn explores another side of Renaissance society: the side of the impoverished and the side that men usually inhabit. It really adds color to the story and fleshes out the world.

You really can't go wrong with a Quinn novel, so if you're curious or historical fiction isn't your typical fare, I highly recommend this. It's super approachable, fun, and rich with history without feeling dry. Give this a try! You won't regret it. ( )
  readerbug2 | Nov 16, 2023 |
Quinn is such a good writer and this one didn't disappoint. The ending was shocking to me, but then I realized she is angling to make a sequel. The Borgias came alive for me, as do all Quinn's characters. She should write history books for school, then everyone would love the subject! ( )
  kwskultety | Jul 4, 2023 |
Laughed more than I've laughed in a long time. It's a reasonably light read, lighter certainly than Mistress of Rome, but seriously enjoyable. ( )
  KittyCatrinCat | Aug 29, 2021 |
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I didn't love it and it took me forever to read. I'd put it down for a few days then pick it up and start again. It just didn't hold my interest. I loved the Rome series and I think that's what I was expecting. Probably won't take the time to read the second book. ( )
  Tabatha014 | Mar 31, 2016 |
This had been sitting on my shelf for ages before I picked it up. Historical fiction based on the Borgias guarantees some smut, and some murdering, which does go on here. But I was more impressed with the moments of heart, and hope, and friendship and even love between characters in the ensemble cast. Giulia, learning to navigate the intrigue that comes with being Rodrigo's mistress, and even growing to love him. Lucrezia growing from a young girl into a woman who is more than a little warped.
And a bonus, the fictional characters. I have so much love for Carmelina and Leonello. ( )
  ewillse | Jan 18, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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Fiction. Romance. Thriller. Historical Fiction. HTML:One powerful family holds a city, a faith, and a woman in its grasp‚??from the national bestselling author of Daughters of Rome and Mistress of Rome.

Rome, 1492. The Holy City is drenched with blood and teeming with secrets. A pope lies dying and the throne of God is left vacant, a prize awarded only to the most virtuous‚??or the most ruthless. The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web‚?¶

Vivacious Giulia Farnese has floor-length golden hair and the world at her feet: beauty, wealth, and a handsome young husband. But she is stunned to discover that her glittering marriage is a sham, and she is to be given as a concubine to the ruthless, charismatic Cardinal Borgia: Spaniard, sensualist, candidate for Pope‚??and passionately in love with her.

Two trusted companions will follow her into the Pope's shadowy harem: Leonello, a cynical bodyguard bent on bloody revenge against a mysterious killer, and Carmelina, a fiery cook with a past full of secrets. But as corruption thickens in the Vatican and the enemies begin to circle, Giulia and her friends will need all their wits to survive in the world of

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