Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness: The Malice of Fortune is a beautiful book. I was completely transported to the fractured Italy of the Borgias and da Vinci. And, of course, Machiavelli. Who would have guessed he could be such a romantic hero? We have such a negative view of Machiavelli – this is an excellent corrective. And what a wonderful slant on The Prince: the mystery, the evil, the twisted minds, and the machinations of the Borgias (and the salt works on the coast – I read this on a sunny porch and was chilled) – I felt like da Vinci, zeroing in on the mappa. I read this in a rush, stopping only to catch my breath. Really. But towards the end, I stopped, because I didn’t want the book to end. I didn’t want the love story to end. But it didn’t, in a way. For readers who liked The Name of the Rose or The Historian, Ennis has the similar ability to wrap the reader totally in Machiavelli’s world of conspiracy, hatred, and passion. Fabuloso!
Jenn Northington, WORD (Brooklyn, NY): There are a lot of moving parts to this book — it’s a serial killer murder mystery, a painstakingly-researched historical fiction, a peak behind-the-scenes of the writing of The Prince, a family story, and a love story — but it all comes together and packs one hell of a punch. The Borgias are endlessly fascinating, and Ennis does a great job bringing both his original characters and his historical figures (Machiavelli, Prince Valentino, Da Vinci) to life. We’ve got a contingent of folks looking for literary mysteries, following the success of Tana French and Cara Black, and I can see handing this to them as well as to my historical fiction junkies, once they’re done with Wolf Hall.
Sarah Harvey, Tattered Cover (Denver, CO): In The Malice of Fortune, Michael Ennis brings to life the chaos and mayhem of the Italy that inspired Machiavelli’s The Prince. An unlikely trio find themselves teaming up to solve the most notorious murder of the Italian Renaissance: the assassination of the Borgia Pope’s favorite son. Niccolo Machiavelli believes he can solve the mystery by studying human behavior. Leonardo da Vinci believes that carefully measuring all the elements of the crime will lead him to the killer. Then there is Damiata, the courtesan who knows an unhealthy amount of Borgia secrets. As they delve into the mystery together, more and more bodies start piling up. This tale will keep you guessing right up to the thrilling conclusion.
Sally Brewster, Park Road Books (Charlotte, NC): The Malice of Fortune is historical fiction at its very best. History lovers will love the research and detail. Fiction lovers will love the twists, turns and narrative. Michael Ennis’ captivating writing along with some of the most interesting real-life characters and history make this book an instant bestseller. I look forward to handing this book to my customers who loved Name of the Rose, or books by CJ Sansom or Shadow of the Wind.
Jason Kennedy, Boswell Books (Milwaukee, WI): What Michael Ennis does in The Malice of Fortune is no less than complete genius–he transports the reader into an atmospheric world that I would call “Umberto Eco-esque” and it works beautifully. Surrounded by intrigue and murder, Damaita has to go on errand for the Pope to help protect her son and to possibly find his fathers murderer. Along the way she has help in the likes of Da Vinci and Machiavelli-two of the most brilliant minds in Renaissance Italy, though she is a complete match to their wits. What most impressed me, though, was the attention to detail that Ennis gives to this time period. The historical accuracy that he imbues is astounding, from the political intrigue that the individual city states had to the historical characters and their motivations. This is one novel not to be missed!
Conrad Silverberg, Boswell Book Company (Milwaukee, WI): The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis is a tightly crafted murder mystery set in the early 16th Century Italian Rennaisance of Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli. It calls to mind nothing so much as Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, a comparison to which it holds up nicely. Who better than Da Vinci to bring a nascent scientific mind to an otherwise bewildering set of clues … who better than Machiavelli to navigate the convoluted intrigues of a corrupt political system that has everything to do with the mystery and its solution. United by the main character, a more or less retired high-class and well-educated courtesan (or “honest whore” as she styles herself) who happens to have been the lover of Pope’s murdered son and the mother of his (the pope’s) grandson. This will appeal to mystery buffs and fans of historical fiction alike.
John Hugo, Hugo Bookstores (Andover, Newburyport and Marblehead, MA): The Malice of Fortune is a marvelous novel that has both plenty of plot to satisfy our hardcore mystery lovers while at the same time doing a stunning job taking you back in time to a period in Italy that our historical fiction junkies will also devour. The novel reminds me of Italian supper, starts delicately with Caprese salad to warm you up, heavy meats and pasta in middle, and finally a nice pop at the end with espresso and Limoncello. Great for fans of Matthew Pearl or Arturo Perez Reverte.
Ed Conklin, Chaucer’s Books (Santa Barbara, CA):
I began reading The Malice of Fortune defensively, but the author’s marvelous interest and commitment to his subjects skillfully overcame me. The Malice of Fortune weaves suspense, historical intrigue, and philosophy into a literary work that transforms historical figures (Machiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci with nods to Livy, Plutarch and Suetonius ideas) into fictional characters that evoke strong empathy and revulsion. History buffs and suspense fans can equally appreciate and devour this richly satisfying work. The Malice of Fortune suggests, with Machiavelli and Livy, that the ‘study of history is the best medicine for present ills’ – and Ennis masterfully breathes life into that history.
Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books (Mystic, CT): The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis is a brilliant gem of a book. Ennis creates a world of murder, deception, narcotic induced goat rides, science and discovery and the exploration into what determines human behavior. With each page of this 16th century masterpiece of historical fiction, I was entranced by early Roman history and the bloody feuds between powerful families, the immorality of man as illuminated in The Prince and of the scientific world where Leonardo da Vinci, designer of the mappa of evil, and Niccolo Machiavelli are compatriots. I found myself fascinated by this era of history, so much that I pulled a copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince off the Penguin Classic spinner to read in order to understand the evils of human behavior further. Ennis is an impeccable writer who uses words to express emotions that most men cannot in voice. The Malice of Fortune should certainly find its place at the top of many bestseller lists as it is a book that stays with you after closing the last page, “Only great love, as I was told in a lifetime so long ago, can journey beyond the shores of fate.”
Kym Havens, Wellesley Booksmith (Wellesley, MA): The Malice of Fortune is historical fiction at its best. You are transported to Italy amidst Machiavelli and the Borgia’s, with a murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the end. Machiavelli is brought to life in a completely different light, with great insight into the writing of The Prince.
After reading this book, you will feel as if you had spent an exhausting, enlightening time with real life historical figures like Leonardo daVinci, in a long ago time that somehow seems completely real – the sights, smells and atmosphere that make it hard to leave when the book ends.
Dean James, Murder by the Book (Houston, TX): Elegant and sophisticated, The Malice of Fortune is the perfect combination of intelligent historical fiction and engrossing suspense. Having read and loved Duchess of Milan, I had high expectations, and Ennis fulfilled them. Fans of outstanding historical fiction like Shadow of the Wind, and writers like C.J. Sansom, Sharan Newman, and Sharon Kay Penman, will love it and savor every page.
Holland Saltsman, Pudd’nhead Books (St. Louis, MO): The Malice of Fortune is a delicious masterpiece of historical fiction set in 1502 Italy. From the impressive list of characters, all real life players in this tumultuous era, to the final scene, the reader is swept up into a time of conspiracy, scientific discovery, loyalty, & revenge. Delving into the worlds of Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli—add to this extraordinary duo a polished, undaunted courtesan whose son’s future hangs in the whims of the Borgia Pope—and the reader isn’t sure who to trust from one chapter to the next. The Malice of Fortune is a must read for anyone interested in science, mystery, government corruption or the unimaginable deceit that occurred during this important juncture in history.
Julia Loving, Chester County Book & Music Company (West Chester, PA): A fascinating novel immersed in the turmoil of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia’s) Italy with an unlikely hero in an astutely observant Niccolo Machiavelli, with violent crimes, deception, witchcraft, politics, power struggles, and a love story, Ennis gives us a gripping and intriguing speculation on the origins of The Prince. This is a terrific historical novel, rich with period detail and a colorful cast of characters including an extremely eccentric Leonardo da Vinci.
Paul Fyke, Square Books (Oxford, MS): The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis was like a window into the past. As soon as I opened the first page I found myself transported into the world of the Borgia, a world filled with powerful people and even more powerful secrets. From there I followed the story of Damiata as she investigates the murder of the Borgia Pope’s favorite son. Along the way she meets both Niccolo Machiavelli and the young scientific prodigy Leonardo Da Vinci. As Damiata’s investigation continues to raise more questions than it answers, Damiata and her new acquaintances find themselves faced with a series of murders carried out by an elusive killer with seemingly no motive. Ennis does a phenomenal job of bringing to life the many monumental historical figures contained within his story, people such as Niccolo Machiavelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Duke Valentino. I’m especially excited for this novel because I think it is perfect for both newcomers to the historical fiction genre (such as myself) and die hard fans. All around a fantastic read.
Rob Dougherty, The Clinton Book Shop (Clinton, NJ): I cannot thank you enough for sharing The Malice of Fortune with me. It was nothing short of an epic novel (I’ll confess, it seems practically waiting to be cast for film!) Ennis hits upon everything a reader wants when they are looking for book to lose themselves in. I was fully immersed from the start, finding each voice so distinct that my reading changed with each revelation. Damiata, so passionate and driven, and Niccolo, so tragic at first, then fully evolved and powerful by the end. Damiata’s little boy, too, his innocent fate always in the background, was such a powerful element to hang this huge story upon. This is an intense and tightly woven historical thriller that I simply cannot wait to put into the hands of readers. Dibs on a signing here at the Clinton Book Shop!
Liesl Freudenstein, The Boulder Bookstore (Boulder, CO): The Malice of Fortune has all the elements I crave in a historical novel: detail so rich that I feel I am experiencing history. Compelling characters that feel so alive, I want to invite them to dinner (well, maybe not any of the Borgia family—but certainly Damiata). And a place that I would love to visit (minus the serial killer). Michael Ennis has created a story to lose yourself in and has used his characters to their fullest—putting Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci together and creating a conversation that sounds real—and he’s made an already intriguing and fascinating time in history even more compelling. I can see passing this on to fans of both historical fiction and literary mysteries (many times they are the same person-for double the fun!)
Tova Beiser, Brown University Bookstore (Providence, RI): Who would have thought a novel narrated largely by Machiavelli, featuring Da Vinci, Cesare Borgia (among other Borgias) and a courtesan, would be driven by the search for a murderer? The Malice of Fortune is a suspenseful, literary, fascinating, skillfully written page turner. It is set in North Central Italy in 1502 amid the teeming minds and lives of the Renaissance. Both thrilling and esoteric, this novel illuminates Machiavelli’s study of man and his motivation and da Vinci’s study of the observable and measurable world, as they strive to solve a series of murders. Reminiscent of The Name of the Rose, Michael Ennis’s The Malice of Fortune is exciting, intimate and informative.
Christie Olson Day, Gallery Bookshop (Mendocino, CA): Niccolo’s voice is simply wonderful, and the very concept of hunting down a murderer using Machiavelli’s principles is brilliant.
Teri Tanner, A Real Bookstore (Fairview, TX): Michael Ennis’s The Malice of Fortune is rich in style and history that is evident on every page. I finished it in a week– it’s a great read that kept me guessing until the end, a historical novel that was a mysterious thriller and a love story all wrapped in one. I would love to hype it as an indie pick from the store. (And an event would be even better!)