In addition to delving into the corruption that has become synonymous with the Borgia name, the author details the contemporary figures and events occurring around them, successfully placing stories within the context of the time to highlight the villainy prevalent throughout Europe during the emergence of the Renaissance. Readers unfamiliar with this period of history may find the first few chapters confusing with its slew of names, but they will quickly catch on as Rodrigo Borgia begins his rise to Pope Alexander VI. With several quality books dedicated to the Borgias, such as G.J. Meyer’s The Borgias, history buffs have a plethora of avenues to explore, but Strathern’s comprehensive work positions him at the top of the pack ... Highly recommended for readers interested in the drama surrounding the Borgias that spurred a number of scandalous rumors that continue to circulate today.
... incorrigibly anecdotal ... In tone, Strathern strikes a successful balance between gorblimey Horrible Histories and the reverence due to Renaissance men. Don’t be beside a pool or under a loggia in Italy this summer without a copy from which to read (luridly) aloud ... Strathern is in masterly command of his material. The plot moves at the gallop of a condottiere — one of Italy’s mounted mercenaries ... If the history is assured, the style is sometimes schlocky, no cliché left unturned ... [Strathern] uses the formula 'as we have seen/as we shall see' 11 times in 30 pages (three times on the same page). Still, if you can forgive some clunky exposition, this history of ruthlessness, intrigue and men broken on Fortune’s Wheel is a wickedly entertaining read.
... historians who seek a wide readership, while giving their readers the drama they crave, must honor the historical record in all its complexity...The Borgias: Power and Fortune present[s] just such [a] nuanced account ... doesn’t gloss over the brazen ambition of the Medici, yet his book is a generally admiring portrait of the dynasty. He calls Lorenzo 'the Magnificent,' a sobriquet often omitted by modern historians, and presents him as an action hero who might have been played by Errol Flynn ... Mr. Strathern has an admirable talent for the biographical sketch, particularly of artists and writers. His portrait of Machiavelli is especially fine.
... engaging and informative ... To be immersed in this group biography is to visit a particularly exciting and consequential period in European history in all its high drama and richness of character. As Strathern works through the stories of the Borgias, readers learn that the major factor in their dominating personalities and lawless politics was not so much depravity as ambition. A magnet for all who are intrigued by this infamous clan and everyone looking for a new perspective in European history, this is an outstanding account.
The ambitions, challenges, debauchery, failures, and successes of Alexander and his children in this Renaissance soap opera became a television mini-series recently. Here, however, the reader reads history in detail but for a popular audience, with a supporting cast that includes Ferdinand and Isabella, Leonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Lorenzo the Magnificent ... No one needs a background in the Renaissance and its Holy Roman Church to enjoy this epic and fast-paced tale of debauchery, intrigue, politics, and more. The book includes useful maps of Italy and dramatis personae of the characters.
... even-handed ... Few readers will pick up a book on the Borgias hoping for details of city administration, however—and Mr Strathern does not stint on the depravity ... This is a book rich in telling details—if sometimes also in less compelling ones. Characters and aristocratic titles proliferate, to such a degree that readers may struggle to keep up. But it is worth persisting.
Strathern’s latest venture into Renaissance Italy proves just as exciting as his previous histories ... One of the author’s great strengths has always been his ability to keep the many assorted players from confusing readers, and that holds true in his latest ... Strathern’s smooth narrative and comprehensive insight bring the Borgias to life for scholars and amateurs alike.
... accessible ... The Borgia reputation for prolific, promiscuous, and sometimes incestuous sexual misconduct is amply delineated. Alliances with city-states and nations come and go, as do battles, and passages on the intrigues of papal conclaves and diplomatic machinations are lucidly rendered. Strathern makes a tangled and thorny history readable in this solid, workmanlike book.