By Elle Newmark (Website - Blog - Twitter)
Publisher: Atria (December 30, 2008)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Audio Sample (Not a direct link)
It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance, and Venice teems with rumors of an ancient book that holds the secret to unimaginable power. It is an alchemist's dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. Everyone, rich and poor alike, speculates about the long-buried secrets scrawled in its pages and where it could possibly be hidden within the labyrinthine city. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it.
As a storm of intrigue and desire circles the republic that grew from the sea, Luciano, a penniless orphan with a quick wit and an even faster hand, is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired, for reasons he cannot yet begin to understand, as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. There, in the lavish home of the most powerful man in Venice, he is initiated into the chef's rich and aromatic world, with all its seductive ingredients and secrets.
Luciano's loyalty to his street friends and the passion he holds for a convent girl named Francesca remain, but it is not long before he, too, is caught up in the madness. After he witnesses a shocking murder in the Palace dining room, he realizes that nothing is as it seems and that no one, not even those he's come to rely on most, can be trusted. Armed with a precocious mind and an insatiable curiosity, Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing open the shutters of his mind, inflame his deepest desires, and leave an indelible mark on his soul.
Elle Newmark brings two areas of expertise to this novel, her extensive travels and her life as the daughter of a master chef. I found a bunch of reviews here: Book Browse and one thing I noticed was a total absence of any mention of fantasy elements. It is described as an historical fiction, a mystery/adventure and a coming of age story. Within those parameters, it was generally well liked. Not sure if I would like this one or not, I am not into food but I love history. However, I am not sure if it would satisfy my fantasy addiction. Likely this book will cater more to the historical fiction lovers.
The blurb seems to be fantasy, but Simon and Schuster classifies it as historical fiction. To be safe, and since Mulluane has already done the research, we'll just go ahead and cover it. Fantasy elements are creeping into lots of other genres, after all. The author has a wonderful blog post up right now about being over 60 when she published her first novel:
Correction: she self-published it, then proceeded to get it noticed by publishers and agents. Read the blog for how she did it. Very inventive.
Still, embracing my age was an uncomfortable novelty. It’s shocking, unbelievable really, that I’m over sixty. I don’t think about my age, and I feel like I’m thirty-five, only smarter. Because, you see, I didn’t spend forty years sitting on my ass, writing in a void and collecting rejection letters. Oh, I was writing and amassing my share of rejections all right, and I have the emotional hide of an armadillo to prove it, but I was also living.