January 30, 2016

Review: Da Vinci's Tiger

Da Vinci's Tiger by L.M. Elliott
Grade: C
Summary: Young, beautiful, and witty, Ginevra de’ Benci longs to take part in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence. But as the daughter of a wealthy family in a society dictated by men, she is trapped in an arranged marriage, expected to limit her creativity to domestic duties. Her poetry reveals her deepest feelings, and she aches to share her work, to meet painters and sculptors mentored by the famed Lorenzo de Medici, and to find love.

When the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, arrives in Florence, he introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers—a world of thought and conversation she has yearned for. She is instantly attracted to the handsome newcomer, who admires her mind as well as her beauty. Yet Ginevra remains conflicted about his attentions. Choosing her as his Platonic muse, Bembo commissions a portrait by a young Leonardo da Vinci. Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them—one Ginevra can only begin to understand. In a rich and enthralling world of exquisite art, elaborate feasts, and exhilarating jousts, she faces many temptations to discover her voice, artistic companionship, and a love that defies categorization. In the end, she and Leonardo are caught up in a dangerous and deadly battle between powerful families.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I was drawn to this book because it was set in a different period than most YA historical fiction that's written these days. I thought Da Vinci's Tiger would be fascinating and fun, and unfortunately, I was wrong. 
You can tell the author did a lot of research. The descriptions of the city and the clothes are very precise, and almost the entire story is based on fact, according to the author's note. But what I look for in historical fiction is just that - fiction. I want a story I can connect to and love, not just read and think, "Oh, that was interesting and informative." I learned a lot from Da Vinci's Tiger but that extra spark just wasn't there. There was no actual plot, just sort of a brief, sparse fictionalization of what really happened.
Ginevra, the main character, interacts mainly with the men of the story and I wanted to see more with the women. A female character, spoiler alert, dies towards the end, and I felt no sadness. Lucrezia de' Medici seemed like she was a very interesting woman but she only appears for a few brief scenes. The one male character I did like was Ginevra's brother, Giovanni. He seemed to receive the most characterization besides Bernardo, and especially more than Ginevra. I honestly can't tell you much about the protagonist; I know she loved poetry and was fairly humble but that's about it. I wanted to know why she was the mountain tiger.
Warning: there is a scene where a male character tries to force himself on the protagonist, so if that's triggering for you, I'd avoid Da Vinci's Tiger.

The Verdict: Still looking for a great YA historical fiction novel set in the Renaissance.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: No.

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