Sunday, 18 November 2007

The Principessa by Christie Dickason

The Principessa
Christie Dickason
Harper €??

SOFIA is a gritty, cautious princess guarding her life as she stays by her dying father, a man as lethal as a spider.

He's killed her mother for objecting when another woman's son, the creepy Ettore was raised to be heir.

Ettore has killed Sofia's pliable young husband, who might have provided another heir to cut him out of the succession.

Now her father has sent to England for a 'firemaster' - a dynamite expert who's turned from war to fireworks - supposedly to organise a grand funeral fireworks to celebrate his transfer to the throne of Heaven.

Back in England the firemaster, Francis Quoint (hero of Dickason's The Firemaster's Mistress) is sent by kingmaker Robert Cecil on this top secret mission.

Turns out that the mad old prince wants more than fireworks. He wants Quoint to propel him safely to Heaven, so he can persuade God in person that he had reason for all those rapes and murders.

A good plan, but technically difficult.

There are some great characters - the Arab slave secretly restoring Moslem documents in the hidden library, Ettore's moustachioed giant bodyguards.

Dickason's writing benefits from her strange background. Born in the US, she grew up in Thailand, Switzerland and Mexico, among other places. It gives her the ability to imagine the extraordinary.

She isn't writing as fluently here as in the predecessor, but it's an entertaining story of mythical 17th-century city-states and murderous plots, interlaced with a heaving bosom or two.

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