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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review: A Bolt From the Blue by Diane Stuckart

Author: Diane Stuckart

Copyright: 2010 (Berkley); 322 pgs.
Series: #3 in Leonardo daVinci Mysteries
Sensuality: Adult themes
Mystery sub-genre: Historical Intrigue
Main Character: The young apprentice to Leonardo daVinci, Dino (who is the girl Delfina in disguise)
Setting: Milan, Italy in the year 1484
Obtained book through: Publisher for an honest review

Imagine having a dream ingrained in your very being so deeply that you can’t live without pursuing it. Imagine that you are a young girl in ancient times who has art in your very blood and you live to paint and draw, but your predetermined future will be to live in a small town and raise children without any hope of ever pursuing your dream.

When young Delfina’s family arranges a marriage for her so she can stop dreaming and start raising children, Delfina cuts her hair, binds herself up and disguised as a boy runs away to Milan and manages an apprenticeship under the renowned Leonardo daVinci himself. She is smart and brave and quickly the ultimate Renaissance man sees “Dino’s” quick mind and she is embroiled in court politics and intrigue by his side.

This was the third in the series and without having read the prior books I understood this book fine. The brief mentions of events from the prior books only made me want to read them as well. The main idea is that Leonardo is making a secret weapon for the Duke of Milan. Leonardo recruits “Dino’s” father since he is a master wood worker and cabinetmaker.
“And how does Mother fare?”

“Quite well. Her health is good, her beauty in undiminished, and her tongue is as tart as ever.”

“And does she ever speak of me?” I asked, though without much hope.

My father hesitated before shaking his head.

“I fear she has not forgiven you for leaving as you did, in the dark of night and with no word but a terse note. And, of course, she suspects that I have some idea of your whereabouts. Though she is angered at the notion that I know something that she does not, I think it also brings her some comfort to know that you are alive and presumably well.”

I sighed, a painful knot that had nothing to do with the stew forming in my stomach…
Another apprentice, Constantin, is shot down by an arrow (bolt) from a cross bow while clutching the stolen pages from Leonardo’s sketchbook for the weapon. Apparently there is a spy for the opposing forces in their midst. What is this weapon that must not fall into enemy hands? A flying machine for strategic aerial advantage in battle!

But before the assassin of Constantin can be discovered, the nearly completed flying machine is stolen out from under their noses…and “Dino’s” father is kidnapped along with it. It appears a rival Duke has the upper hand. How far will Delfina go to rescue her father and keep a viciously cruel Duke from using the weapon?

I have to say that this was a fantastic read. I thought the characters were well developed and wonderfully drawn, the plot kept me on the edge of my seat and the period detail is rich and envelops the reader. Delfina is a memorable character and Leonardo steps from mythic legend to fully realized person in this work. I truly cannot think of a down side. Which made me wonder why this book and the series isn’t all the rage? Why isn’t there more buzz about this series and author just everywhere? I am at a loss, unless it is due to the label “historical mystery” which downplays the more dramatic intrigue and rich layering of historical details. The author brings the time period, court politics and precarious political alliances and even the realistic daily existence vividly to life without it being dark, graphic or overly “gritty”. This series deserves to have a spotlight on it in my opinion – it is just that good. Can you tell I enjoyed it? If you have ever been fascinated by Leonardo daVinci or want political intrigue without a lot of violence, swearing and bed scenes this will probably delight you!

The author, Ms Stuckart, has agreed to an interview and I will be doing a giveaway for this book soon – so stay tuned !!

For your convenience, you may purchase your copy here.
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JournoMich said...

Sounds interesting. I'll be back for the interview!


Ann Elle Altman said...

I never knew this series existed and it sounds interesting. Thanks for the review. I will probably start at #1 in the series.


Diane A.S. Stuckart said...

Ariel, thank you for one of the loveliest reviews I've ever received! I hope you _can_ spread the word so that there will be further adventures with Leonardo and Dino/Delfina. Looking forward to our interview. ~Diane

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