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The Venetian Bargain by Marina Fiorato

The canals. The piazzas. The art. It's not easy to pinpoint what makes Venice the world's most beautiful city. It sets the stage for romantic story telling. Drenched in history the stories of love set on the grand arches of the Doge’s Palace are further exemplified by our imagination of smoothly moving boats in the lagoon at night. It’s the ultimate seduction.

But there is also a different Venice. One that once upon a time was drenched by The Black Death. And in The Venetian Bargain, Marina Fiorato explores this Venice set in 1576. Five years after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, a ship steals unnoticed into Venice bearing a deadly cargo.

A man, more dead than alive, disembarks and staggers into Piazza San Marco. He brings a gift to Venice from Constantinople. Within days the city is infected with bubonic plague—and the Turkish Sultan has his revenge.

But the story centers around a young stowaway trained as a harem doctor fleeing a future as the Sultan’s concubine. She comes to Venice in the same ship as the man carrying the plague. And, she feels she must do everything in her power to help prevent it from consuming a city.

This beautiful period piece embodies the sights and sounds of Venice, while portraying the horror of the times.

The prose is descriptive and poignant. It is nice to see a young female lead who embodies character and brains, in a time when women weren’t necessarily known to hold their own professional status.

Most women in the medical field at the time were midwives and Freya has a hard time navigating the prejudices of society, struggling to earn her mark as a doctor and fit in amongst a predominantly male profession.

She also is an outsider – Turkish by descent – and must keep her identity a secret. Her accent is a dead giveaway. With this the author also adds another level of complexity to the identity crisis.

Marina Fiorato is a brilliant writer bringing seventeenth century Venice to life and painting a revealing picture with descriptive prose and authentic storytelling. It’s not so much a romantic story as it is a story that’s vividly portrays the times. In fact in my opinion the romance seems more like an afterthought and perhaps a bit forced.

Regardless, I enjoyed The Venetian Bargain. As historical fictions go, this is definitely on my top To-Read recommended lists.


4 out of 5 Sukasa Stars

The Venetian Bargain by Marina Fiarato is published by St. Martin's Griffin and distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books 

Review by
@ShilpaRaikar for @SukasaReads (a division of @SukasaStyle)