Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: "Of Fathers and Sons" by Evan Ostryzniuk



 Synopsis: Geoffrey Hotspur and the Este Inheritance takes place in 1395 when the conflict between rival branches of the mighty Este family over the succession to the strategic Marquisate of Ferrara reaches its climax. The Este lands are vulnerable. The unexpected death of the powerful Marquis Alberto d'Este in 1393 has left his ten-year old son, Niccolo, as his sole direct heir. Though born out of wedlock, the pope himself legitimized the boy’s birth, but in an age when great lords ruled by the sword as much as by the laws of inheritance, having a boy lead the family can be a sign of weakness.

Made unhappy by the father, several Este vassals want to humble the son, and they see their opportunity in the essential weakness of Niccolo’s minority rule. Championing their cause is the head of a humiliated branch of the Este family who is not only a famous condottiere, but also a powerful captain of the ambitious lord of Milan. Fearing that civil war will lead to a shift in the already fragile balance of power in favor of the hated Milan, the city-states of Florence, Venice and Bologna combine to keep the Este inheritance in Niccolo’s hands. If Niccolo falls, the great powers of Italy will be plunged in to war.

Geoffrey and Niccolo are confronted by the same questions: How can an orphan find his place in a society informed by patriarchal relations? For how long must a son honor the wishes of his father? When does the boy become the man?

My Thoughts:  Of Fathers and Sons was a very different than anything I have read.  Set in Italy in the late 14th century, the story follows Geoffrey Hotspur, a young man eager to prove himself, as he struggles to help Niccolo d'Este hold on to his inheritance.

Geoffrey is a unique character but I really struggled to like him.  He was extremely arrogant and self-centered.  He was always looking for ways to showcase his prowess and made bad decisions in order to do so.  I did like him as he interacted with the young Niccolo.  Geoffrey helped the boy find his voice and gave him the confidence to fight for his right to rule.  Geoffrey became like a big brother to Niccolo and it was this side of Geoffrey that made him a little more likable.

To me, the most interesting character in the story was the astrologer, Catherine.  She was incredibly intelligent and very mysterious.  It seemed like she had a past and I really wanted to be get to know her more. I wish she had played a bigger role in the story because I enjoyed the sections where she made an appearance  I also liked that the author didn't try to create a romance between her and Geoffrey; I kept expecting it to happen even though they seemed very mismatched.

I really enjoyed the setting of this book.  I haven't read many books set in Italy and none that were set in medieval Italy.  I liked reading about all the different places Geoffrey Hotspur visited as well as the complex system in place in Italy regarding condottieri and warfare.  I always think it's neat to read about eras that I have never read before and Of Fathers and Sons introduced me to some interesting aspects of medieval Italy.  Overall, Of Fathers and Sons was an entertaining read that left me curious about what adventures these characters will have in subsequent books. 3 stars.

About the Author:

Evan Ostryzniuk was born and raised on the prairies of western Canada. After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with a B.A. in History and Modern Languages and an M.A. in Modern History, Evan crossed the ocean to do post-graduate work at the University of Cambridge, concluding four years of research with a doctoral thesis on the Russian Revolution. He then found his way to Eastern Europe, where he took up positions as a magazine editor, university lecturer and analyst in the financial services sector before rising in the ranks of the local publishing industry to become Editor-in-Chief of a popular weekly.

Evan Ostryzniuk currently resides in Kyiv, Ukraine near a very large candy factory. He has travelled extensively, including the locations of his novels. Of Fathers and Sons: Geoffrey Hotspur and the Este Inheritance is his second novel. 

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