The Orphan of Florence by Jeanne Kalogridis: A Book Review

The Orphan of Florence
Author: Jeanne Kalogridis
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: 2017
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis: In this irresistible historical novel set in the turbulent world of the Medicis, a young woman finds herself driven from pick-pocketing to espionage when she meets a mysterious man.

     Giulia has been an orphan all her life. Raised in Florence's famous Ospedale degli Innocenti, her probing questions and insubordinate behavior made her an unwelcome presence, and at the age of fifteen, she was given an awful choice: become a nun, or be married off to a man she didn't love. She chose neither, and after refusing an elderly suitor, Giulia escaped onto the streets of Florence.

     Now, after spending two years as a successful pickpocket, an old man catches her about to make off with his purse, and rather than having her carted off to prison he offers her a business proposition. The man claims to be a cabalist, a student of Jewish mysticism and ritual magic, who works for the most powerful families in Florence. But his identity is secret―he is known only as "the Magician of Florence"―and he is in need of an assistant. She accepts the job and begins smuggling his talismans throughout the city.

     But the talismans are not what they seem, and neither is the Magician. When Giulia's involvement with him ends with his murder, she's drawn into a treacherous web of espionage and deceit involving the forces of Rome, Naples, and a man known as Lorenzo the Magnificent. Accused of the Magician's murder, Giulia is pursued by the handsome policeman Niccolo, Lorenzo's henchmen, and foreign spies, and in order to survive, she must not only solve the mystery of the mystery of the Magician's murder, but that of her own past.

     My Review: Giulia is an orphan of Florence. Her only choice as a woman of Florence is to marry or become a nun. Giulia believes that neither option works for her. So, she cuts her hair, dresses as a man, and becomes a thief to make a living. When she is caught red-handed pickpocketing a magician, Giulia is forced to become the magician’s apprentice. Giulia learns that the magician is more than what he seems to be. Soon, she finds herself in the midst of murder, secrets, magic, and conspiracies. Florence has turned into a dangerous playground of violence. Can Giulia survive the dark underground of Florence and save her city?

   Giulia was a very fun character. I liked her immediately. She reminded me of Katniss Everdeen. She is feisty, stubborn, and a bit sarcastic at times. I also like how she was very loyal to her city and was willing to risk her life to save it. I loved Giulia’s father-daughter relationship with the magician. At first, she distrusts him. However, she realizes the magician’s kindness and learns to care for him as a father. When he is murdered, he is still Giulia’s ray of light in the darkness. He gives her the hope to carry on and survive. Therefore, the relationship between Giulia and the magician was very touching and plays a crucial part in this novel.

Overall, The Orphan of Florence is about love, trust, and believing. Even though the romance was not fully developed in the novel, the characters were realistic and all played an important role in the story. The ending was a bit rushed, but I enjoyed the novel so much that I hope there is a sequel. I thought that because of Giulia’s age and voice, The Orphan of Florence would have worked better as a teen book rather than adult fiction. Still, this novel is a fast-paced fantastical adventure that is full of mystery, suspense, and action! It sucks you in from the very first sentence and is unwilling to let you go even after you have read the last page! I have Mrs. Kalogridis’s novels and loved them. I, Mona Lisa is one of my favorite novels of all time, and this latest work by Mrs. Kalogridis proves that she is still one of the queens of historical fiction! Bravissima!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


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