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.