Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Review: A Thing Done by Tinney Sue Heath


Florence, 1216:  The noble families of Florence hold great power, but they do not share it easily.  Tensions simmer just below the surface.  When Corrado the Jester's prank-for-hire goes wrong, a brawl erupts between two rival factions.  Florence reels on the brink of civil war.  One side makes the traditional offer of a marriage to restore peace, but that fragile peace crumbles under the pressure of a woman's interference, an unforgivable insult, and an outraged cry for revenge.

Corrado is pressed into unwilling service as messenger by both sides.  Sworn to secrecy, he watches in horror as the headstrong knight Buondelmonte violates every code of honor to possess the woman he wants, while another woman, rejected and enraged, schemes to destroy him. 

Corrado already knows too much for his own safety.  Will Buondelmonte's reckless act trigger a full-scale vendetta?  And if it does, will even the Jester's famous wit and ingenuity be enough to keep himself alive and protect those dear to him?

This is Corrado's story, but it is also the story of three fiercely determined women in a society that allows them little initiative:  Selvaggia, the spurned bride; Gualdrada, the noblewoman who both tempts Buondelmonte and goads him; and Ghisola, Corrado's great-hearted friend.  From behind the scenes they will do what they must to achieve their goals—to avenge, to prevail, to survive.

Fireship Press | October 30, 2012 | 336 pages

My Review

3.5 Stars

Hired to entertain guests at a banquet following a knighting ceremony, Corrado the jester is asked to play a simple prank on one of the high-born attendees, the knight Boundelmonte.   But the prank goes horribly wrong and, when Buondelmonte injures a knight from a rival family, a feud that could threaten the stability of Florence is started.  Forced to act as a messenger for both sides, Corrado is unwillingly drawn into Florentine intrigues.  In an effort to end the feud Boundelmonte agrees to marry the niece of his rival, but soon after schemes with another family and secretly arranges a different marriage.   Corrado, who is privy to Boundelmonte's deception and unable to share his knowledge without putting his own life at risk, can only stand by and watch as Boundelmonte's peace-brokered bride, Selvaggia, is publicly jilted by him on what is supposed to be their wedding day.  The result is a reigniting of hostilities and the potential imposition of a vendetta against Boundelmonte by those, including Selvaggia, who want revenge.  Will Corrado, whose prank started this whole mess in the first place, emerge from it unscathed?

A Thing Done provides an intimate look at the feuds and rivalries between noble families that were a hallmark of early 13th century Florentine politics.  It is apparent that a great deal of research went into the writing of this novel, as it showcases some of the customs and conventions associated with various religious practices, life within a noble home, and the everyday activities of those who weren't part of the ruling elite.  Even though it sometimes proved difficult, especially in the opening chapters, to keep track of the novel's various characters and their relationships to one another, the narrative does move relatively quickly.  The reader's interest is maintained throughout given that it is not apparent how the story will end.  While Corrado makes for an interesting protagonist, many of the novel's secondary characters prove to be equally compelling, especially Selvaggia.   Unfortunately, given the story is told from Corrado's perspective, not enough time is devoted to fleshing out these intriguing secondary characters.   

Recommended to readers who enjoy historical fiction set in Italy, as well as to those looking to read something a little out of the ordinary. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this novel as part of the author's virtual book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Check out the tour schedule by clicking here.

About the Author

Tinney Sue Heath has loved music and history all her life.  Born near Chicago, she started college in Boston at the New England Conservatory with the intention of becoming a professional flutist, but after a rather abrupt change of direction she wound up with a degree in journalism from Antioch College.  She worked as a staff reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education and later provided editorial assistance to University of Wisconsin-based editors of two professional journals.

Her musical and historical interests eventually merged, and she discovered the pleasures of playing late medieval and early Renaissance music on a great variety of instruments.  Her historical focus is currently on Dante's Florence, so she and her husband spend a lot of time in Florence and elsewhere in Tuscany.  They live in Madison, Wisconsin, where they enjoy playing music and surrounding themselves with native wild plants.