The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis – Book Review and Giveaway

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The Malice of Fortune

About the Book:

Against a teeming canvas of Borgia politics, Niccolò Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci come together to unmask an enigmatic serial killer, as we learn the secret history behind one of the most controversial works in the western canon, The Prince…
When Pope Alexander dispatches a Vatican courtesan, Damiata, to the remote fortress city of Imola to learn the truth behind the murder of Juan, his most beloved illegitimate son, she cannot fail, for the scheming Borgia pope holds her own young son hostage. Once there, Damiata becomes a pawn in the political intrigues of the pope’s surviving son, the charismatic Duke Valentino, whose own life is threatened by the condottieri, a powerful cabal of mercenary warlords. Damiata suspects that the killer she seeks is one of the brutalcondottierri, and as the murders multiply, her quest grows more urgent. She enlists the help of an obscure Florentine diplomat, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Valentino’s eccentric military engineer, Leonardo da Vinci, who together must struggle to decipher the killer’s taunting riddles: Leonardo with his groundbreaking “science of observation” and Machiavelli with his new “science of men.” Traveling across an Italy torn apart by war, they will enter a labyrinth of ancient superstition and erotic obsession to discover at its center a new face of evil—and a truth that will shake the foundations of western civilization. 

About the Author:

MICHAEL ENNIS taught art history at the University of Texas, developed museum programs as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, and worked as an independent curator and consultant. He is the author of two historical novels, The Duchess of Milan and Byzantium. He has written for Esquire and Architectural Digest, and is a regular contributor to Texas Monthly. He lives in Dallas with his television producer wife, Ellen, and their daughter, Arielle.

My Opinion:

The book begins when Pope Alexander VI is at the height of his power politically but we find him emotionally devastated at the murder of his favored son, Juan, Duke of Gandia. Juan was heading out to visit his courtesan, Damiata when he was ambushed and killed. Damiata disappeared that night after seeing the dead body of her love. His second son, Cesare, the Duke of Valentinos is now in charge of his armies and is conquering Italy in his name. Cesare is a brilliant military man but he is evil personified.

This book was a fascinating read; it brought together five fascinating characters. Three of them real, one a creation from bits of history and one is a goddess if you will –  Fortune. Niccolo Machiavelli, Leonardo DaVinci and Cesare Borgia are three of the more remembered men of the Renaissance they come together in this novel with a thinking man’s courtesan named Damiata to see what Fortune has in store for all of them. For Fortune plays as large a role as any of the flesh and blood characters. Any one with knowledge of the history of the time knows exactly what happens to Cesare Borgia. Leonardo DaVinci is remembered for his art and his engineering that was so far ahead of his time. Machiavelli has left us with his writings and his name has entered the lexicon as someone who looks to deceive.

It takes a writer with a strong knowledge of history and an imagination for dialog to write a novel that keeps a knowing reader turning the pages. This is a favorite period in history for me and I’m familiar with the characters and how it all ended yet I still felt a sense of suspense. The writing is dark and mysterious if uneven at times. The first third of the book is written from Damiata’s point of view, the last two thirds from Machiavelli’s. There was not much difference in the style. Mr. Ennis does set a scene well and his writing was the kind that brought into time and place so that I felt drawn into the conversations and felt as if I were a participant instead of an onlooker. I love books that do that. 

The conversations between the two great men, Leonardo and Machiavelli were at times thought provoking and inane which I suppose can be said for all of us. It’s a book I will keep for a second read; I suspect I will appreciate it more with foreknowledge of the ending, although the big reveal did not come as a surprise.

You can purchase The Malice of Fortune on

The Giveaway:

Two lucky US readers will win a copy of The Malice of Fortune thanks to Doubleday! How do you win? It’s easy! Just hop on the Rafflecopter! Good luck everyone.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:  I received a copy of The Malice of Fortune gratis from Doubleday. Any opinions expressed are my honest opinions and were not impacted by my receipt of the free book. I received no monetary compensation for this post.


  1. says

    I don’t know much about him. This book sounds fascinating–a good story plus some historical facts. Thanks for the giveaway.
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

  2. says

    I know he lived during Renaissance times and wrote The Prince. That’s all I know but I’d love to read this book to find out more. Thanks for the giveaway!
    PMNSL95 at triad dot rr dot com

  3. says

    I know some of the philosophy from “The Prince”. I have a book on the Borgias that I want to read before this book so that I have some background.


  4. says

    I don’t know a great deal about Machiavelli.
    I know that his most famous work is “The Prince” and that it is basically a blueprint of methods to gain and hold onto power however underhanded and ruthless.
    I know that that is where the term Machiavellian came from.
    For more information I’d have to look it up.
    Thanks for the cool giveaway. I’d love to win this one.

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