3 out of 4 stars
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Orlando Novi has just lost his father; he was found dead in the canal. Everyone is saying he slipped, hit his head and then fell over into the water. But, Orlando is not convinced that this was an accidental death. He thinks it was murder, and he intends to find his father's killer.
In investigating, he finds a note in his father's cloak with the words, "Ottavo Street" written on it. When he goes to explore, he finds a secret workshop where his father was crafting a gauntlet from Leonardo da Vinci's design - a gauntlet that he supposedly didn't finish. But when Orlando finds a gauntlet that perfectly fits his hand, he knows there is more to the story than meets the eye.
Hand of Silver, Hand of Gold by Christopher Grey is a historical fiction/fantasy/coming of age novel. It has just under 400 pages. Set in Bologna, there is a bit of intrigue, some violence, riots and rumors of war, traitors and small bits of romance - something for everyone. The novel does contain violence, but nothing overly graphic. I believe it would be appropriate for high school age through adult.
It does seem that there are quite a few accurate historical details in the novel. Mr. Grey adds designs by Leonardo da Vinci into the plot as stated above. There was actually a ruler named Lord Giovanni in Bologna in the 15th century. However, I'm still not sure I actually learned much about that time period.
What I really enjoyed about this novel was the writing. The author certainly has a way with words and uses metaphors and alliteration to his advantage. The protagonist was even an aspiring poet, so there was some poetry gracing a few of the pages. There were also very few grammatical errors which tells me that this was professionally edited. Another plus for any book. Furthermore, the setting came alive with the descriptions. I really felt like I was in Bologna exploring the palazzo (palace) of Lord Giovanni complete with secret passageways. That makes any book standout.
On a frustrating note, though, I had a hard time relating to the characters. Orlando was seventeen years old, but he was so fickle that I really couldn't keep up with him. One minute he was proclaiming that this person was absolutely his father's murderer. He would find a way to expose him. Then he would decide that he was being foolish, and there was no proof. He went back and forth like this so many times, I just lost all faith in him. Even at the end, I didn't feel like he had developed or grown. There is an alchemist named Zeno in the book. At the beginning, he is evil. He changes suddenly, and the explanation didn't seem to fit. This made it harder for me to become involved in the story.
In addition, I felt the book took too long actually getting into the thick of the plot. There was so much wind-up, that by the time the ball actually left the pitcher's hand, it fell short of the mark. To me, it would have been much better if Orlando hadn't faltered around so much and found his father's gauntlet much sooner.
Overall, I give Hand of Silver, Hand of Gold 3 out of 4 stars. The author obviously knows how to craft a good story, but the characters could have used a bit of work and it was a bit slow to start. However, the descriptions, setting and author's way with words overshadow the negative aspects of the novel. I believe that this would appeal to fans of historical fantasy that know a bit about Bologna in the 15th century.
Hand of Silver, Hand of Gold
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