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I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Immortal by Traci L. Slatton.
Some writers seem to really enjoy taking their characters and piling the grief on. The more they suffer, the happier their creator gets. I’m thinking of every single character in The World According to Garp, in particular. While I was reading, and wincing, I kept wondering if John Irving was really mad at his creations. Of course, you can say that the writer is working out personal issues, or that there’s a lesson, or there’s no growth except through pain, or there’s no plot without conflict; and you’d be right, but doesn’t it seem like some characters grow and learn more than others depending on who’s written them? If you appear in a Danielle Steele novel, the worst that’ll happen is you might be an illegitimate princess and lose your fortune to a handsome gambler. If you’re in a Stephen King novel, you’ll probably get eaten by giant spiders. If you’re in Traci Slatton’s novel, Immortal, it’ll be more of a good news/bad news. The good news is you’ll live in 13th century Florence at the height of the Renaissance and rub elbows with DaVinci and some of the other greatest minds the planet has ever known. Bad news? You’re an orphan who has attracted the attention of the Inquisition. Good news? You’re immortal, a special being who heals instantly and never gets much past age 30. Bad news? The whole Inquisition, burnt at the stake thing.
Luca Bastardo, our long lived hero, certainly has his ups and downs, and the fun of this richly researched book is in the details the smell of the marketplace, the color of a woman’s silk dress, and the art that surrounds Luca and sustains him through some very difficult times. The secret of Luca’s past isn’t revealed until the very end, and if you’re willing to accept a little fantasy, it’s a satisfactory finish. Interestingly, although the premise clearly makes this a work that’s more fantasy than straight up historic fiction, Slatton’s approach and her writing are firmly rooted in reality. It works very nicely.