Thursday, June 19, 2014

Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she first got hooked on ancient Rome while watching I, Claudius at the age of seven. She wrote her first book during her freshman year in college, retreating from a Boston winter into ancient Rome, and it was later published as Mistress of Rome. A prequel followed, titled Daughters of Rome, and then a sequel, Empress of the Seven Hills--written while her husband was deployed to the Middle East.

Quinn made the jump from ancient Rome to Renaissance Italy for her fourth and fifth novels, The Serpent and the Pearl and The Lion and the Rose, detailing the early years of the Borgia clan. She also has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with a small black dog named Caesar, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

Recently I asked Quinn about what she was reading. Her reply:
Some of my favorite books of the year so far . . . and as a writer of historical fiction, it's no surprise that HF is a big part of this list.

The Red Lily Crown, by Elizabeth Loupas. I read an ARC of this to see about giving it a cover quote, and I was absolutely delighted to do so. I'm a fan of Loupas's anyway (her The Second Duchess and The Flower Reader are superb) and Red Lily Crown might be my favorite yet: a tough-as-nails street urchin in Renaissance Florence who ends up serving a mad-as-a-hatter Duke obsessed with alchemical experiments. She gets a lot more than she bargained for, and a front-row seat to the world of Medici madness, murder, and blood-lust. A subplot of poison and addiction gives everything the sheen of a dark fairy tale, the kind where the fair maiden might just get eaten instead of rescued.

Daughter of the Gods, by Stephanie Thornton. Ancient Egypt this time! Thornton's books are terrific if you're tired of all these wafty princesses and moony queens who inhabit historical fiction. The heroine here is Hatshepsut; an unashamedly ambitious badass who took Egypt's double crown for herself and ruled as Pharoah in her own right rather than be content with a role as First Wife. Her adventures are huge good fun.

Prince of Shadows, by Rachel Caine. I know nothing about Caine except that she has a YA vampire series, so this book was an expected shock of deliciousness: Romeo and Juliet retold with a surprising twist. The hero and heroine here are Benvolio (Romeo's steady best friend) and Rosaline (Romeo's first love, ditched for Juliet). This pair is smarter, older, and far more savvy than their more famous counterparts, and they struggle to stop the inevitable - all the while feeling like the "curse on both their houses" may be a literal catalyst for all this disaster, and not just a poetic conceit. And the story is far more firmly set in the realities of Renaissance Verona than Shakespeare's play, which basically used the Italian setting as short-hand for "not-England."

Odin's Wolves, by Giles Kristian. I found Kristian's Viking series after going into serious withdrawal from Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories, and it doesn't disappoint. This story of a boy named Raven swept up into the crew of a Viking longship is everything you want from guts-and-glory historical fiction: bone-crunching shield-walls, pulse-pounding adventures, and prose of blood-stirring action and sometimes lyrical beauty.

Lexicon, by Max Barry. It's not all HF on my reading shelf, and Lexicon is a modern thriller with fantasy elements - and one to delight anyone who loves words. We all know that "words have power," but Barry takes it a step further, showing a secret society where the verbally gifted are trained to use words that are literally weapons. Two halves of the story unwind; a young con-artist undergoing her word-training, and two men on the run from . . . what she eventually becomes? Nothing is as it seems, and it'll have you thinking a long time about that old "words have power" saying.
Visit Kate Quinn's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Kate Quinn and Caesar.

My Book, The Movie: Empress of the Seven Hills.

The Page 69 Test: The Serpent and the Pearl.

The Page 69 Test: The Lion and the Rose.

--Marshal Zeringue