The Stars Compel

Michaela Roessner, Author Tor Books $25.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-312-85755-4
Roessner's sequel to her historical fantasy The Stars Dispose brilliantly recreates Renaissance Italy and brightly imagines the love of young Catherine de' Medici for her distant cousin Ippolito in the face of nefarious attempts by her uncle, Pope Clement VII, to marry her to the younger son of the King of France. As her vastly powerful family's sole legitimate heir, Catherine represents the choicest of political/marital plums. Seen through the eyes of Tommaso Arista, her chef-in-training and protagonist of this succulent period piece, Catherine is also a formidable young sorceress, able to envision the multiple futures for which she serves as linchpin, accompanied by her Little Kitchen Goddess, incarnate in the centuries-old tortoiseshell cat, Gattamelata. Tommaso--heir through both his parents to a long tradition of Florentine cuisine whose roots are enmeshed with white and black magic--studies the noble political art of Castiglione's Book of the Courtier, the goldsmith's art under the illustrious Cellini and the sublime in art and life from the ultimate master, Michelangelo, who is his lover. Tommaso becomes Catherine's familiar, a loyal being who catalyzes her supernatural powers as she and her own star-crossed lover struggle against their fate. This rapturous feast for the senses presumes too much knowledge of its predecessor to be successful on its own, but Roessner's handy glossary helps untangle her huge cast of historical and fictional characters. Most satisfying of all of this hearty novel's mingled flavors is the sprezzatura, or easy grace of the loving master, with which Roessner concocts her luscious Italian settings, replete with recipes that even on the page breathe the seductive scents of Tuscany: Bellissima. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 480 pages - 978-0-8125-5015-3
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