The Ballad of The Blue-eyed Castrato
by: Cristian Saileanu
(the 1st installment in the trilogy about the castrati in 16th century Italy)
What revolting piece of news could bring the entire population of Cassiano Prison to the verge of open mutiny? What could be so shocking, so disgusting, so infuriating to convince the warden himself to allow Alessandro Fundoni, a larger-than-life horse thief with a penchant for throwing knives, to escape from this famous prison in the hilltop Umbrian town of Todi? And what errand of vengeance did this huge man, once out of prison, embark on? What power drove him on despite bandit-infested forests, plague ravaged cities, inclement weather, and the wrath of the all-powerful lords of the day?
In the meantime, and parallel with Alessandro’s progress north towards Mantova, we have the story of the most famous sexual scandal that rocked 16th century Italy. Why is Giulia, a strikingly beautiful, twenty-one year-old virgin taken from her home, placed under the care of a wily chaperone, and handed over to the Medici? Why is she bribed, cajoled, threatened, lied to, why is her natural barrier of shame systematically broken down? How could a simple peasant girl figure in the political plans that could bring down two of the mightiest houses in Europe, the Gonzagas of Mantova and the Medici of Florence?
This is a novel that once started, you will not be able to put down, a real page-turner. And when you’re through reading it, at 3 a.m., when you have finally put the book down, you are going to have the feeling that the 500-page novel was… too short. And you will ask for more. That is our solemn promise.