Official Stuff –
Author – Victoria Strauss
Pages – 342
Publisher – Amazon Children’s Publishing
“Be sure you know your true heart’s desire, or you may find yourself surprised by what you receive.”
This is the warning the Astrologer-Sorcerer gives Giulia when she pays him to create a magical talisman for her. The scorned illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, Giulia is determined to defy the dire fate predicted by her horoscope, and use the talisman to claim what she believes is her heart’s desire: true love and a place where she belongs–not likely prospects for a girl about to be packed off to the cloistered world of a convent.
But the convent of Santa Marta is full of surprises. There are strict rules, long hours of work, and spiteful rivalries…but there’s also friendship, and the biggest surprise of all: a workshop of female artists who produce paintings of astonishing beauty, using a luminous blue mixed from a secret formula: Passion blue. Yet even as Giulia begins to learn the mysteries of the painter’s craft, the magic of the talisman is at work, and a forbidden romance beckons her down a path of uncertainty and danger. She is haunted by the sorcerer’s warning, and by a question: does she really know the true compass of her heart?
Set in Renaissance Italy, this richly imagined novel about a girl’s daring journey towards self-discovery transports readers into a fascinating, exotic world where love, faith, and art inspire passion–of many different hues.
My Rating – 3 ½ Stars
*I received an ARC of this novel through the Arcycling blog*
Giuila is a bastard. Her mother was a seamstress and mistress to an Italian Count. Her mother died when she was a child and now her father has passed away. Now that she has no protection in the household, the Count’s wife is eager to be rid of her. The count left Giuila a small dowry and instead of marrying her off to a husband, the Count’s wife gives the dowry to a convent and forces Giuila to be a nun.
Giuila is a talented artist, however in Renaissance Italy; women were not allowed to be painters. Giuila’s mother always wanted Giulia to be married so that she could have her own life. When Giulia was just a child, her mother had a horoscope done for her. The horoscope was destroyed in spite but other children Giulia grew up with but one tiny piece she was able to salvage told her that she would never take another’s name or bear children. Giulia is determined to not be locked up in a convent and have a husband and a family. In desperation she seeks the help of a sorcerer, and he gives her a talisman that will give her her heart’s desire but with the warning that her heart’s desire may not be what she thinks it is.
Once at the convent, Giulia encounters cliques and harsh punishments and the feeling of being trapped. A few weeks into her stay, she is asked to join a special workshop, where nuns are painters and artists. The Maestra of the workshop, Humilita, is very famous and sought after, even for being a woman. She is most famous for a vivid and much coveted color names Passion Blue that appears in many of her commissions. Though Giulia is working on plans to escape the convent, she loves being in the workshop and is glad to be painting.
While Giulia is trying to figure out a plan to escape, and journeyman named Ormanno is in the convent fixing a fresco that was damaged by leaking water. She thinks he may be her future husband and be the one to help her escape. But Ormanno may not exactly be truthful and maybe she had everything she wanted in the convent.
The book was pretty well written, I don’t know about the historical accuracy because Italian Renaissance is not my forte but it seemed believable enough. However I wasn’t drawn in. Giulia particularly annoyed me because I feel like she never understood that being married in that time; she would have been a slave to her husband. She might have married someone that forbids her to paint. Her lifelong dream of being married was just frustrating in general. She focused on it so much she was willing to run off with the first man that came her way.
Giulia was so eager to be free of a convent, a place that gave her a roof over her head, clothing, food, and an ability to follow her life’s goal of painting. I thought she was kind of a brat. She seemed completely naive about how the world really worked.
The end of the book is kind of given away if you really think about the warning, which I hate in a book. Why give the ending of a book away in the first few chapters? Giulia is a bit whiny; Ormanno is obviously fishy from the first interaction. I did like Maestra Humilita, she was quite gracious but overall I was a little disappointed with the book.