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by Traci L. Slatton
Delta, January 2008
513 pages
ISBN: 1594146403

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Luca Bastardo grew up on the streets of Florence. Nine years old In 1330, he never knew his parents and remembered nothing of his life before the streets. Small for his age, clever and intelligent, he just manages to survive. He is usually hungry, often cold, but he depends on his friends among the other street boys as he would his family. But survival often overcomes friendship and one of his friends betrays him. The evil Silvano, who runs a very particular brothel, has Luca in his grasp. The brothel caters to any perversion, especially those that involve young children.

Luca befriends several of the children who live in the brothel. He has come to care for them and is held there by Silvano by threats to harm the children if Luca runs away. Thus, Luca has a certain amount of freedom on the streets of Florence. He is better fed and better dressed, but he is a prisoner. During his forays into the streets and churches of Florence he encounters many of the elite of the day.

It becomes obvious that Luca has a secret past. He has remained younger looking than his actual age. When he is in his twenties he still looks like a young teen. Silvano hints that Luca is bewitched, that is why he does not age, and that he could be turned over to the Inquisition at any time that Silvano decides.

Eventually he does break away from the brothel and finds refuge with a Jewish doctor and his family. Luca learns the art of medicine from his benefactor which serves him in good stead during an outbreak of the Black Death. Luca is one of the many who pick up the bodies and remove them for burial. He does not contract the disease although most of those who handle

the bodies eventually succumb.

For many years Luca seeks information about his origins and the whereabouts of his family. He is forced to leave his beloved Florence for many years, eventually returning. During his travels, which span two centuries, he encounters many historical figures who are realistically inserted into the story.

Luca longs for true love and the story of his seeking and finding true love is the real story of his life. How he came to be an immortal is finally revealed in the later pages of the book. This is more of a fantasy than a mystery, but nevertheless an interesting and compelling story.

Reviewed by Lorraine Gelly, May 2008

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