The Stars Dispose

3.94 avg rating
( 126 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780812550146: The Stars Dispose

Set in Renaissance Florence, this fantasy retelling of the life of Catherine de' Medici is as beautiful and as richly magical as the works of the great artists who people its pages. When Catherine was born, she was the sole legitimate heir to a great fortune and great power. But her father had died before she was born, and her mother died only a few weeks afterward, leaving the child to the guardianship of the pope and the fosterage of servants. From this beginning, Roessner tells an intimate story, of the servant families of the Medici who practice the secret magics of the kitchen and hearth. The Befanini family is bound to the Medici by blood and oaths, through children born on the wrong side of the blanket, recognized but not legitimate. Thomas, the son of Catherine's foster mother, is bound particularly to Catherine by magic and love, for he is destined to become Catherine's chef, and to that end he is not only taught the arts of the kitchen but is apprenticed out to a sculptor, and befriended by the great Michelangelo. But war intervenes in the charted courses of these children, and in the struggles between the pope and the German emperor and the city of Florence itself, their futures - and their very lives - are set at risk.

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Review:

The Befanini family rules the kitchens of the de Medici and their allies, serving well by fortifying their patrons' reputations and influence with all the power that a brilliant meal can supply. Young Ginevra Befanini serves more directly as companion and confidante to Caterina de Medici, while Ginevra's brother Tommaso is learning his family's craft and enhancing it with his own ideas and talents. The political forces of Renaissance Florence pull and push at them; plague stalks them; and other alien forces move through the kitchens and the city, menacing Caterina and her friends.

Historically precise, culinarily evocative (at the very least, have some pan di campagna and olives on hand as you read), and fantastically inventive, Michaela Roessner's writing will sweep you into the mazelike streets of Florence and the ominous tension of sorcerous conflict.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Renaissance fantasy set in Florence in the late 1520s, from the author of Vanishing Point (1993). The narrative revolves around young Tommaso Arista, apprentice chef and sculptor, who's the son of master chef Gentile and occultist Piera; by tradition the Aristas are servants of the Ruggieros, a family of magicians who in turn serve the ruling Medicis. Food and its preparation frequently dominate the proceedings. While the plot follows the major historical events of the times--the deposing of the Medicis in favor of a republic, and their eventual restoration; the advent of the Black Death; and the intrusion of the armies of the Holy Roman Empire--Roessner represents these events as stages in an arcane struggle on the astral plane, where forces and creatures from other realities and dimensions attempt to influence matters in this world. These occult conflicts, in which the Ruggieros and Piera Arista figure prominently, are intricate, abstruse, and almost impossible to follow. Somehow, Confessions of a Florentine Foodie collided with The Young Sorcerer's Guide to the Occult, producing a rich but indigestible stew. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Roessner, Michaela
Published by Tor Books (1998)
ISBN 10: 0812550145 ISBN 13: 9780812550146
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