A Gift for the Magus

Written by Linda Proud
Review by Towse Harrison

A Gift for the Magus is a stand alone prequel to Linda’s wonderful Botticelli trilogy (also available from Godstow Press), in that the young Sandro Botticelli appears as apprentice to the main protagonist, Fra Filippo Lippi. Lippi is conventionally devout for his time but, given to the Carmelite order as a young child, he is deeply flawed as a friar, being altogether too human in his desires. He loves food, drink and gambling; he enjoys women; and is frequently in trouble. He is fallible and gullible, but so extremely likeable that it is impossible not to have empathy with him while he also struggles with procrastination and the desire to be perfect in his painting. Lippi was the favourite painter of Cosimo de’ Medici; first citizen of Florence, founder of a dynasty, banker, patron of the arts, re-founder of the Platonic Academy, astute and ruthless politician and the magus of the title. But Cosimo is also a human being, with his own desires and fears and the relationship between the two men is deep and extremely well drawn. Lippi’s scandalous relationship with the nun, Lucrezia, defies the conventional belief that ‘to be a good painter you must be a good man’. But what is the nature of goodness? Is anything in the lives of human beings ever that straightforward?

This is really excellent writing with characters who live real lives with humour and self-reflection. There are some lovely images that fit so well with the whole ethos of the story.  It will inspire you to look at the art and discover more about the minds of the great Renaissance thinkers, and you will want to read the trilogy that follows. I cannot recommend it more highly—this is a most excellent read!

** Runner-up for the 2014 HNS Indie Award **