Series: FLORENTINE SERIES
Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—4; Humor—2
Publisher and Titles: Berkley
"The Prince" (e-novella, 1/2015)
This ongoing post was revised and updated on 2/18/2016 to include a review of The Shadow, the second novel in the series. That review appears first followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first novella and the first novel.
To assist him in keeping his principality in order, the Prince established the Consilium, a council of six members who oversee various affairs of state. Some important members of the Consilium are Niccolò (an extremely ambitious vampyre version of Niccolò Machiavelli); Aoibhe (pronounced Ay-vuh), a beautiful Irish vampyre who is one of the Prince's allies and on-and-off lover; and Lorenzo (probably a vampyric Lorenzo de' Medici), the Prince's second in command. Although the Prince relies on the Consilium to take care of everyday matters, he trusts no one, and if someone fails in an assignment, he or she is soon dead—beheaded in front of the entire Consilium.
This introductory novella introduces us to the Prince of Florence. Throughout this novella and much of the first novel, he is never named—just called "the Prince." Unfortunately, that serves only to dehumanize him and turn him into a cardboard character rather than a man to whom we can relate. The story has two plot lines, one personal and one political.
In the prologue, which takes place in 1870, an anonymous man steals a collection of priceless Botticelli illustrations of Dante's Divine Comedy from the Prince's residence. The action then skips to 2011, when Gabriel and Julianne Emerson—now the owners of those illustrations—loan them to Florence's Uffizi Gallery for a special exhibition. The Prince is determined to punish the Emersons for their crime against him, even though Gabriel has no idea that the illustrations are stolen property. Throughout the story, the Prince stalks the Emersons through the city streets and spies on them in their bedroom, mostly watching them make love every chance they get. When he discovers that Julianne is extremely ill (with an unnamed illness), he decides to leave her untouched and kill only Gabriel. Then, he will steal back the illustrations (which is where the first novel begins).
The other plot line features an attack by the Venetian Prince, Marcus, who kicks off a war by sending a team of assassins to kill the Prince—an unsuccessful attempt, because the Prince is a cartoonish superhero when it comes to swordplay. Soon it becomes obvious that one of the Prince's Consilium members is a spy for the Venetians, feeding them information about the Prince's security system. The Prince has to pretend to be dead in order to lure Marcus and his warriors into an ambush.
Basically, what this novella does is introduce us to the Prince and his top supporters, along with linking this series to the GABRIEL series (for whatever reason). We learn that the Prince is both respected and feared. He is powerful, dangerous, and ruthless, but during his centuries of rule, his citizens have enjoyed prosperity and peace. We also learn of the existence of the Roman, a mysterious—almost mythical—man who serves as the King of Italy (of supernatural Italy, that is). And one last thing: When the Prince pays a visit to the Spanish Chapel, we learn that his long-ago mentor was St. Thomas Aquinas (the central figure in the fresco that the Prince addresses).
The novella is a weak introduction to the series given that most of the crucial details could have been included in a prologue to the first novel. The ongoing sex scenes between Gabriel and Julianne are gratuitous, melodramatic, and entirely unnecessary to the story. The war with Venice is also unnecessary. It is mentioned briefly in The Raven, but it appears to have only one purpose—to alert the Prince (and the reader) that there is a spy within the Prince's ranks. That fact could have been inserted into The Raven without all the sword fights and beheadings that Reynard has crammed into this novella. (Note to the author: On the printed page, one beheading is just like the next—no real drama after the first one.) Click HERE to read an excerpt from "The Prince" on the book's Amazon.com page by clicking on the cover art.
Dr. Raven Wood is an American art historian and conservationist who is currently restoring Renaissance paintings at the Uffizi Gallery. Here is how Raven describes herself: "…she was overweight, her extra pounds compounded by baggy garments and well-worn sneakers that added little to her five-foot-seven height. Her hair was dark,…and carelessly pulled into a ponytail that swept her shoulders. In comparison to the many attractive…well-dressed women who inhabited Florence, she was considered plain." Raven, who is thirty years old, is also mildly disabled, forced to lean on a cane when she walks: "Her right leg was somewhat shorter than the other and her foot turned outward slightly, at an unnatural angle…She knew it was painful to watch her walking." Her disability is the result of a childhood tragedy that we don't learn much about until late in the book.
|Primavera, by Sandro Botticelli|
The painting plays an
important role in this novel.
Supporting characters in this novel are the Consilium vampyres and Raven's friends from the Uffizi. Making some cameo appearances are Gabriel and Julianne Emerson, the lead characters from Reynard's GABRIEL series.
Another problem is Raven's strange attitude toward her disability. When the effects of the Prince's infusion of vampyre blood wears off, Raven once more becomes painfully dependent on her cane, wincing every time she tries to bend her foot. When the Prince offers to cure that pain with another small dose of blood, she replies, "I would be betraying other disabled persons if I took the blood…I'd be saying I'm not good enough." Say what? How on earth would she be betraying other disabled people by having her pain taken away? Real people with painful, crippling disabilities actively seek relief. They may not be looking for vampyre blood, but they do seek medical help. No real person is so altruistic and self-serving as to refuse relief from pain because others can't be cured. Not even Mother Theresa would have been so masochistic.
Reynard tries to portray Raven as an earth-mother type—nurturing, forgiving, kind-hearted, and much too good to be true. Raven even does volunteer work at an orphanage, just like Julianne Emerson. Unfortunately, Raven comes across as naive, immature, and vacuous. Even though she has a PhD. and a responsible position at the gallery, she defines herself solely through her physical appearance, and particularly how the Prince perceives her looks. To put Raven's insipid personality in context, she is a non-virginal version of Anastasia Steele, but with more insecurities, more passive-aggressiveness, and more self-absorption.