Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Like Classical Athens and Victorian London, Renaissance Florence is one of those peculiar places where greatness, artistic, commercial and political, congregated. Traci Slatton's Immortal explores the rise and fall of the city through the eyes of an undying boy, from an early encounter with Giotto to interactions with the various Medicis.

Like the city itself, the book switches from the potential beauty of the city, represented by the art, and the dark side, represented by the boy's often unpleasant life. The boy starts out as an abandoned street urchin and shortly becomes a imprisoned whore. His life gets better but his undying youth earns him enemies who bedevil him throughout the book until his final end. The boy represents the potential of Florence, as a fair republic and a sponsor of art, but the forces of reaction constantly threaten its destruction.

The book is aimed at those who enjoy historical fiction with a spiritual/fantastic bent. Not only does the titular character not age, but he has visions which provide him with a deeper understanding of how the world operates. Given this spiritual leaning, it is a little surprising how violent the book is, although this is part of the story Slatton tells. Some background in Florentine/art history will also help when reading the book.

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