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The Sixth by Avery Hays: A Book Review

The Sixth
Author: Avery Hays
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Mariner Books
Release Date: Oct. 31, 2013
Publisher: Diadema Press
Pages: 362
Source: NetGalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Florbela Sarmentos is 21 and knows what she wants: art, romance, and to free her father from the prison of Portugal's despotic King Manuel II.  Born in Lisbon, educated in London and at a painting academy in Cherbourg, France, the cosmopolitan Florbela moves to Paris and takes up residence in the wildly bohemian enclave of La Ruche, there to pursue a creative life.

     Some of the yet-to-be-discovered artists living in her building are Diego Rivera, Amadeo Modigliani and Marc Chagall.  By day she paints, and by night she attends parties with the residents of La Ruche, who introduce her to collectors and creative spirits in Paris's fabled Sixth Arrondissement.  Along the way, Florbela attracts several hot-headed admirers, two of whom become so inflamed with jealousy that they become each other's deadly enemies.

     But Florbela's fledgling artistic and social life is soon eclipsed, when she can no longer escape the political shadow of her father, a Portuguese writer imprisoned in Lisbon for criticizing the corrupt monarchy.
            
     Florbela tries to find news of her father through Portuguese political exiles and sympathizers in Paris -- with alarming results.  When she contacts a friend of her father, Professor Almeida, he turns up dead, killed by an assassin from the pro-monarchist society Ordo Crucis Incendio -- the Order of the Burning Cross.  Professor Almeida's dying words lead Florbela to a secret, encrypted painting that might save her father and overthrow the king. Now, Florbela is the assassin's next target.

    With the help of Armand, a dashing French rebel, Florbela fights to bring the secret painting to the Portuguese resistance fighters.  It just might save her country... and her life.
     
     My Review: Set in Paris in 1910, Florbela is the daughter of a Portuguese rebel, and decides to have a life in exile as an artist in Paris with her sculptor roommate, Irene. There she meets Diego Rivera, his first wife Angelina, and Amedeo Modigliani. She is also next door neighbors with Marc Chagall, whom she calls by his real name Moishe. However, her blissful life is turned upside down when she stumbles upon a dying man, who is a rebel for a Portuguese rebel cause, and gives her a painting that has a crypted message. She makes an alliance with the Freemasons, and a secret organization of rebels. She finds out that the King of Portugal has sent an assassin to kill her and to get her painting. Florbela reluctantly realizes that she must make a choice to either to live her life in Paris as an artist or to aid the rebellious cause to overthrow the king and save her father.

     Most of the story is about the daily life of the painters. Florbela spends most of the novel painting and going to parties. It shows how the painters get discovered by going to parties of great benefactors, who if they like a work, they will buy it and promote it. The book focuses a great deal on Moishe’s rise to fame from a penniless painter. He is portrayed to be a talented painter whom all these famous artists admire and benefactors are thoroughly invested in his work. Florbela, on the other hand, struggles for no one is interested in her work.

     Florbela is stubborn, often prone to jealousy, and also very nosy. She likes to get involved with the other characters’ situations that doesn’t concern her. She is also very self-centered. She also doesn’t give a thought to the dangers surrounding her or even to her father, who is languishing in a Portuguese prison while she paints and goes out to parties to have a good time.

     Overall, this story is slow-paced. The plot of the story takes place at the end of the novel. There is very little action until the last few chapters of the book. Until then, the author goes on a pace reminiscent of the way an artist brings a painting to life. The background and sketches often take a long time to form, but in the end, a clear and nice painting is created. For there is mystery, romance, adventure, and a thriller included in these last few pages. I recommend this book to fans of mysteries, thrillers, art history, and to fans of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is the author's official book trailer of The Sixth:

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