The King’s Agent

Written by Donna Russo Morin
Review by Adelaida Lower

No task is too difficult or dangerous for Battista della Palla, Florentine art dealer, handsome thief, and agent to François I, King of France. When the king, entangled in a struggle with Emperor Charles, wants Battista to find a relic of extraordinary power, he eagerly sets out. To find this relic, he must assemble a triptych. At the house of the Marquess of Mantua, however, Battista hits a snag and is only able to escape with the first painting with the help of the Marquess’ ward, beautiful and enigmatic Lady Aurelia. What’s more, happily abandoning her sheltered life, Lady Aurelia runs away with him, making herself at home in Battista’s coven. Soon, it becomes apparent that she will be invaluable in the search since she is a connoisseur of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and the poetic masterpiece maps their quest. But who is Aurelia, a restless aristocrat or an enemy agent hunting for the relic as well?

Against the sumptuous landscape of Renaissance Florence, The King’s Agent is an adventure tale with echoes of Dan Brown and of the hit video game, The Legend of Zelda. Part historical fiction and fantasy, it has juicy tidbits such as actual paintings with odd depictions of “airships,” imaginative escapades into hell, purgatory, and heaven, and a gradual unveiling of the mystery at the center of the novel. If there are a few superfluous detours — Battista’s band of fellow thieves — they do not diminish the pace. An enjoyable read.