The Lion of St. Mark
In November 1452, in the midst of a raging storm, fifteen-year-old Venetian Marco Soranzo ignores marine officer Antonio Ziani’s orders to stay below deck—and pays for his disobedience with his life. Washed overboard, Marco drowns as the Venetian fleet plows forward through the tempestuous Aegean Sea toward the Venetian port city and naval base at Negropont. This ignites the generations-old blood feud between the two noble Houses of Ziani and Soranzo.
Vowing revenge for Marco’s death, Marco’s two brothers, Giovanni and Pietro Soranzo, plot to ruin Antonio Ziani’s family business as well as his good reputation among the Venetian nobles. The Sorzanos very nearly succeed in this story of jealousy and betrayal set against the bloody backdrop of Venice’s decades-long war with Mehmed II, who, after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, meant to conquer the west and convert Christian souls to Islam—or else.
This is Thomas Quinn’s first novel and the first in a new series. While on the whole the author maintains a neutral stance when describing the conflict between late Renaissance Italian Christians and their war against Islam, the question Giovanni Soranzo asks Antonio Ziani at the end of the book—“Do you really think [our temporary truce] can end this vendetta that has consumed three generations of your family and mine?”—will most likely resonate with many readers. Thomas Quinn knows fifteenth-century Venice by heart. For me, however, this essentially history-driven novel allows La Serenissima’s political and religious ordeals to command center stage far too often and at much too high a cost to character development and story.