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Pasquale's Angel by Paul J. McAuley

Pasquale's Angel (1994)

by Paul J. McAuley

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 4 of 4
I first read McAuley's cyberpunk-meets-fantasy-epic trilogy 'Confluence,' liked it a lot, so I got his novel 'Fairyland.' That didn't really do it for me - to the extent that I considered not reading 'Pasquale's Angel' - but I am now very glad that I did read it!

'Pasquale's Angel' is Renaissance-meets-steampunk: in an alternate-history, industrialized Italy, plots and murder are afoot. Pasquale, a young artists' apprentice, is dragged into events when an apprentice of the visiting master Raphael is found murdered. Journalist-cum-private-investigator Niccolo Machiavegli hires him to help with etchings for broadsheets, and next thing he knows, he's at the heart of things. Could the guilty party be Raphael's rival, Michaelangelo? Or possibly the cuckolded husband of the fascinating Lady Lisa Giacondo? Or could a trail lead back to the secretive hermit known as the Great Engineer (Leonardo DaVinci) or the artificer Copernicus?
The novel starts out as if it will be a fairly straightforward murder mystery, but things rapidly get more complicated than that... the murder was just the top layer of plots that may lead to the city of Florence's downfall.
Weird, steam-driven machines, a trained ape, the Pope, satanic rituals, and more figure in before all is said and done...

I don't usually enjoy books which insert historical figures into fiction - but this was definitely an exception, probably because the characters really bore so little actual resemblance to the historical figures bearing their names that there was absolutely no conflict with historical truth going on at all... I found it very entertaining. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
This was a disappointment, sad to say. I've read and enjoyed many of McAuley's books, but this one was quite mediocre. Too bad, since it was such a promising premise. The politics, the factions, the motivations of the characters, were unclear. Never could figure out what was going on in the tower when the guy was killed. Why was he there? No idea. The story would come into focus now and then, but mostly it was a blur. It takes real doing to make Leonardo Da Vinci a boring character. A little background on the Artificers and so forth would have helped a lot. But then again, Pasquale was not a sympathetic character, so maybe nothing would have helped here. ( )
  BobNolin | Apr 14, 2009 |
I have a suspicion that while most critics liked this book, most readers will not if they are not previously acquainted with Renaissance History, or the History of the Medici or Florence. It seems to me that the author relies a lot on reader knowledge of the period about which he's writing, so if you aren't up on your history, this may cause a problem. Lucky for me Savaronola is one of my favorite historical bad guys and that I love reading about Renaissance history.

But this book is not just another rehash of novelized history. It is set in a Florence that really never existed: in this Florence, there's obviously been some kind of industrialization that's taken place -- there are the "manufactories" (factories) that never sleep and the throngs of workers who keep the machines going. There is also smog, steam-driven vehicles, people are smoking cigarettes, dope; artists are in competition with "artificers", who compete to sell their versions of reality. Leonarda da Vinci, in this story known as The Great Engineer, has brought all of this about, for better or for worse. It is in short, an Alternate Florence. I've read some reviews that note this novel as a form of steampunk as well as an alternate history. However, it is also somewhat of a mystery story, with young Pasquale, an artist and pupil of Giovanni Battista Rosso (whose pet is a very human-like Barbary ape) with help from Niccolo Machiavelli (Machiavegli in the book) looking into a series of deaths which begin with the killing of the assistant to the great artist Raphael. The motive I won't give away in case someone is interested in reading this book, but Pasquale finds himself caught in a situation where he's not sure who to trust, and he realizes there's only one person in all of Florence who can help him.

I enjoyed this book, because it was one of those quirky stories that I really like; probably not one for the masses. I did not like the ending, though; it just didn't fit really well with the rest of the book; maybe he had to throw in a heavy dose of action to satisfy a publisher or something.

There's a great quotation in here that rings so true, ascribed to Machiavelli:
'War was simply commercial competition carried to extremes..." (17).

If you're looking for something really different and you can do a brief look at the history of Florence in the 15th/16th centuries, you might enjoy this one. ( )
  bcquinnsmom | Sep 27, 2007 |
Last week I read Pasquale's Angel, Paul McAuley's alternate history of a renaissance Florence in which Leonardo DaVinci poured his genius into engineering instead of art. A nice touch is Florence's exploration of the New World, where they do not conquer as the Spanish would, but instead establish trade and diplomatic relations with the native population. The characterisation of Niccolo Machiavegli, who in this reality is not exiled from Florence but is instead a sort of journalist/sleuth, is marvelous. Paul McAuley is among the greatest of SF worldbuilders I've encountered. This is steam-powered alternate history at its best. ( )
  Move_and_Merge | Aug 3, 2006 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paul J. McAuleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
DonatoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manning, WilliamCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0380778203, Mass Market Paperback)

The acclaimed, award-winning author of Eternal Light, Red Dust, and Fairyland, PAUL J. McAULEY has firmly established himself as one of the major contemporary talents in the realm of speculative fiction. Now he takes an exhilarating look back at a past that never was.

In a grim and wondrous industrial age of artists, princes, and philosophers, a struggling painter follows his elusive angel through the twisting, soot-stained streets of Florence. . .and into a world of deceits, dark magics, and murder.

On the eve of the Medici Pope's visit, an assassin has struck down an assistant to the immortal Raphael, the great Florentine Republic's most renowned personage. It is a crime that draws a young artist named Pasquale and the brilliant, alcoholic investigative reporter Niccolo Machiavegli into the deepest shadows of their gray, steam-driven city-where there are fouler deaths to follow. . .and grave intrigues of war, witchcraft, and science that could lead the world-weary journalist and his unwitting companion heavenward or to Hell.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:42 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Pasquale's Angel is part thriller, part historical novel and part novel of ideas. This is the Renaissance as it might have been if da Vinci had worked as an engineer rather than an artist.

» see all 2 descriptions

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