Annoyingly, Jo Walton’s Lent is another one of these books where even talking about the shape of the story is a huge spoiler (don’t read the cover copy on Amazon, because it blithely spoils major revelations), so let’s see what I can say about it.

I can definitely say that it’s a sort of biography of Savonarola—you know, the Renaissance “bonfire of the vanities” guy?—except that it appears to be one in which Christian mythology is real, and things like demons really do exist.

Taken straight up as a biography and as a portrait of Renaissance Florence, it’s enjoyable, and if your knowledge of Savonarola is as shallow as mine (which, playing the odds, is likely), it’s a useful recasting of his character. But I think I can safely say that it’s not just a straight biography, either, and that there more of a story than just a straight retelling of Savonarola’s life; the unspooling of that story was fascinating, because I like the subgenre that it turned into, but I found the ultimate resolution a little under-motivated and sudden.

(As a random note, I was for a bit convinced that this was set in the same universe as Walton’s Just City books, because Pico della Mirandola and Marsilio Ficino are both characters in it, and they’re both so prominent in those other books. But I guess it’s just one of those things where if you’re going hard into Florentine Renaissance humanists, these guys are going to be prominent.)

Overall, I think this is one of Walton’s weaker books—it doesn’t have the punch of Farthing, the wild inventiveness of the Just City books, or the just-right reworking of Tooth and Claw—but it’s still good, and certainly recommended to anyone interested in Renaissance Florence.


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