Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn

Rome, corruption, Catholic cardinals fathering children, and of course murder all thrown into THE SERPENT AND THE PEARL.  

THE SERPENT AND THE PEARL was set in Rome where the powerful Borgia family was in charge.  You didn't want to go against the Borgia family.  The Borgia family ruled during the 1400's and had servants, money and power, but they mostly had corrupt family members. The corruption began in the book when Orsino and Giulia were married but Orsino never came to the marriage bed.  He had been paid off by the Cardinal.  Guilia found out that Cardinal Borgia wanted her for himself, and that he already had many children from previous women. Cardinal Borgia would hide his indiscretions by paying off and sending away the groom and then keeping the bride for himself.

The book was based on fact and was filled with corrupt, evil characters with chapters devoted to each character.  Guilia Farnese was the main character along with Carmelina, Cardinal Borgia, and Madonna Adriana.  Cardinal Borgia and Madonna Adriana, Guilia's mother-in-law, were the most evil of all in my opinion. The characters and the book itself were interesting, but it took a while to get the gist of what was going on.  It was difficult to follow and seemed to be a tale focused on the Cardinal and Guilia’s lovemaking.  It is unbelievable this really occurred back in the 1400's.

I liked Leonello, the dwarf and bodyguard, the best. Even though he murdered people, he seemed to be the most likeable of the characters.  I also liked Carmelina, the chef. She was believable and a hard worker.  I completely disliked Cardinal Borgia (later Pope Alexander VI) simply because he was evil, cunning, and selfish.  Guilia was likeable, but also a bit naive.   

I can't say I didn't like THE SERPENT AND THE PEARL, but I can't say that I did.  I do like history and I definitely learned a great deal, but the book seemed to drag.  I wasn't "dying" to get back to the book.  Perhaps since I didn't read Ms. Quinn's other books, I missed out on something.   

The reader can’t deny, though, that the writing was excellent, very descriptive, and well researched.  Ms. Quinn definitely did thorough research.  The historical facts were detailed and accurate.  In some respects, this era was a bit comical, and it was difficult to believe that these activities with the Cardinals/Popes took place.  

Not sure what my rating should be, but I am going to go with 3.5 out of 5 simply because it was a bit tedious with the day-to-day living being repeated.  Other than that, if you are a fan of this era, you will not be disappointed.  History was masterfully brought to life through Ms. Quinn’s talents.

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.


  1. The Borgias seem to be the new hot topic in historical fiction. I'm sure I'll be reading about them soon, but I haven't picked the book yet. Thanks for this review. Something to consider!

  2. THANKS for stopping, Susan.

    They were quite an interesting family. :)

  3. Thanks for the review, Elizabeth! I wish I could say I was exaggerating with some of the shocking things that took place with the Pope and his family - I felt as disbelieving as you when I was doing my research. Thanks again!