Traci L. Slatton’s highly inventive and lush debut novel follows Luca Bastardo across the 14th and 15th centuries in his search for his parents and for his own salvation. An orphan lost as a babe on the streets of Florence, Luca manages a bare-bones existence until—blessed and cursed by his outstanding beauty—as a very young boy he is kidnapped by murderous Silvano, who forces Luca to work in his brothel where children are used as prostitutes. But Luca has a gift: the ability to transport his mind to other realms, where the beauty of great works of art soothes him while he is forced to “work.” Luca has another gift, too. He does not age as others do, only growing a bit taller and filling out physically as the years pass. Or is this a curse? Is Luca a sorcerer or a freak and worthy of burning, as his enemies claim?
Space limits all the good things that might be said about this remarkable book; suffice it to say Luca escapes his captor—only to face Silvano’s progeny across the ages. Along the way, in vibrant conversations with luminaries of the Italian Renaissance (Giotto, Petrarca, Cosimo de’ Medici), Luca questions the wisdom of honoring a God whom he can only see as cruel. In his experience, beauty and art are the brothers of light and lead to salvation.
Driving Luca Bastardo through this compelling story is his root longing for a wife and a family of his own. Though Immortal at times seems relentlessly cruel, it is beautifully conceived and written and asks such questions as: What is history, the great swatches of events or the sum of individual lives? Which is more important?
The very highest recommendation.