Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review: A Golden Web - Barbara Quick

Synopsis: Alessandra Gilianti is desperate to escape. Desperate to escape her stepmother, who's locked her away for a year; to escape the cloister that awaits her and the marriage plans that have been made for her; to escape the expectations that limit her and every other girl in fourteenth-century Italy. There's no tolerance in her quiet village for Alessandra and her keen intelligence and unconventional ideas.

In defiant pursuit of her dreams, Alessandra undertakes an audacious quest, her bravery equaled only by the dangers she faces. Disguised and alone in a city of spies and scholars, Alessandra will find a love she could not foresee - and an enduring fame as the world's first female anatomist.

The story of Alessandra Gilianti is widely debated among historians. There is no solid historical proof that she existed, but there are plenty of stories about her and where her remains can be found. Barbara Quick chose to write this story as if all these stories were true, and I like to believe that she did exist.

Review: After reading The False Princess, Alessandra was quite refreshing. Resourceful, intelligent, and willing to deal with situations as they come, she's an entirely likable heroine. And her brother, Nicco, is every bit as likable. The romance between her and Otto got a little bit on my nerves, but overall I did not mind it too much. It was more Alessandra's "young love" that I didn't particularly care for than anything else, but I would not change it if only because it was accurate. Otto's discovery of her true identity was quite enjoyable and very well done, making completely up for any slight vexation I felt earlier. Sexual references are a bit more numerous than I would have liked, but nothing ever actually happens, and the Author does not just completely saturate the story with such references like some authors like to do with stories set in fourteenth-century Italy.

The writing style itself is quite good. The Author paints beautiful pictures of fourteenth-century Bologna, but does not leave out how thoroughly unsanitary life was then, managing at the same time to not go into such disgusting detail that the Reader feels obliged to push aside their breakfast. I was particularly impressed with her dissection descriptions; they gave a clear picture of what was being examined without bogging the flow of the paragraph down.

A Golden Web will find a home on my shelves eventually.

Overall Rating: 


  1. Thank you, Mara, for the lovely review of my novel. You might also like to read my 2007 title, VIVALDI'S VIRGINS. There's a trailer of that one--and more about both novels--at

    All my very best wishes,

  2. It pleases me greatly that you enjoyed it, and as an avid bookworm, amateur book critique, and author, I thank you for writing such engaging historical fiction. I certainly intend to read your other books.


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