Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Book Review: The Scribe of Siena

"The Scribe of Siena" by Melodie Winawer
First published in 2017
450 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5

The Short Of It:

A promising story of time travel to medieval Italy but way too long.

The Long Of It:
After her historian brother's death, New York City neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato travels to Italy to continue his controversial research into the Black Death and why it hit Siena so much harder than anywhere else. But Beatrice continues her journey much farther than she intended, right back to 1347 Siena on the eve of the plague that would wipe out half the world's population.

Romance, intrigue and introspection follow as Beatrice -- put to work as a scribe thanks to her helpful ability to read and write -- discovers that she feels more at home in the 14th century than in the 21st. She knows, though, that there's a very good chance in just a matter of months all her new friends will be dead. On top of that, and unbeknownst to her, Beatrice becomes swept up in a terrible conspiracy -- the very same one her brother had been researching in 2017.

If a book blurb says "time travel," I'm sold; maybe it's because, as a history and historical fiction lover, I find it fun to imagine myself in another time (though I wouldn't actually want to do it -- I'm just fine here in the good ol' 21st century). Some time travel books are definitely more well done others, though, and while "The Scribe of Siena" was ultimately a decent read, it could have been executed better.

For one thing, it was way too long! It was 450 pages but easily could've been 300, and I found myself skimming over entire paragraphs of extraneous detail. The first half seemed to drag on and on. And, despite the author's attempt to create a medieval atmosphere, I never really felt like I was there; contrast that with, say, "Outlander," where I was totally and completely wrapped up in 1700s Scotland right along with Claire. I also felt like there were a few too many historical inaccuracies that took me out of the story -- the way Beatrice talks would never fly in the 1300s.

All that said, it wasn't a bad book, and I still enjoyed my romp to the 1300s with Beatrice. There are better time travel books out there, though, if that's what you're craving. (One of my favorites is "The River of No Return" by Bee Ridgway!)


  1. I like the cover of this book, but over 400 pages does seem long.

  2. Very thoughtful review! I've had my eye on this one for a while but I think I'll skip it. I don't mind reading long books when the story dictates the length but I don't have the time or patience lately for unnecessary fluff.


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