Three powerful merchants, two independent women in love, one masked vigilante.
Florentina, set on revenge for her father’s murder, creates an alter-ego known as the Night Flyer. Madelena, whose husband was also murdered, hires Florentina as a tutor for her children and love blossoms between them. However, Florentina’s vendetta is fraught with danger, and surprising developments threaten both women’s lives. Merchants of Milan is the first book in Edale Lane’s Night Flyer Trilogy, a tale of power, passion, and payback in Renaissance Italy. If you like gadgets and gismos, rich historical background, three-dimensional characters, and fast-paced action with a slow-boil lesbian romance, then you are sure to love this series. Buy this one of a kind novel today and let the adventure begin!
There is, in this book, a wonderful idea. The idea of a Renaissance-era, Batwoman-esque figure using Leonardo da Vinci’s designs and ideas as a basis for her weapons and gear sounded amazing. The story is also set in the 1500s in Italy, a time/place that was interesting and filled with politics, scientific and artistic advancement, the Medici’s, etc.. This should have been the perfect book for me. Instead, it’s a DNF for me at around the 50% mark.
First and foremost, I had issue with the writing. I cannot say strongly enough how much I did not enjoy the writing style in this book. It’s filled with so many adverbs I wonder that there are any left. No one laughs or smiles or sits in a chair. They laugh lightly, laugh sadly, laugh happily; they smile timidly, they smile shyly, they sit regally or sit with anger. Everything — from the carpet to the ceiling — is described in detail and it was so overworked, stiff, and lifeless and tedious. Adverbs aren’t a bad thing, but they don’t need to be everywhere.
Adding to this is awkward and affected dialog. Here is a conversation between Florentina and Madelena, her love interest and the woman employing her as the tutor to her children. Florentina asks the woman how her husband died, to which she responds:
“I don’t talk about it, but I think I should like to tell you. It’s silly, I know, but I cannot recall anyone with whom I have felt more at ease or more stimulated. You make me feel alive, Fiore; you make me feel real. Vergilio was a good enough husband, but we were not close in the way I feel close to you.”
This doesn’t answer the question — how did your husband die — and it doesn’t feel genuine. Maddie responds by telling Fiore how alive Fiore makes her feel, how lovely Fiore is, and only then mentions how her husband died. It felt as if the lines were meant to be said regardless of setting, mood, or appropriateness. That disjointed feeling continued as, right after comparing how the men in their lives that they had loved were killed, they make out.
I just personally felt that the writing was clumsy and a chore to read. I did not like it and fought to read every page, which made every small flaw, plot hole, or personal pet peeve in the portion I read that much more painful and stand out all the more. Which brings me to the main character, Florentina, and the less-than gentle misogyny of the book. (Again, this is my opinion; your own may be different and other readers will have different reactions.)
Florentina is an orphan who works for her living. As such, she doesn’t use makeup and doesn’t have money for fancy jewelry and lavish clothing. She studied under da Vinci and knows his designs so well she’s able to improve upon them. She can take apart any mechanical device and fix it. She’d driven by revenge, yet vulnerable enough to fall in love. She’s great with children, has a heart of gold, and the skills of an assassin. She came off to me as a bit of a Mary Sue, but it’s to be expected in any story that the main character is more interesting than the side characters. I didn’t mind Florentina as a character. What I minded was how Madelena reacted to her.
At a social gathering, we are introduced to Madelana’s friends, friends she’s known for a long time. This section is from her POV and so these are her opinions, her observations. This one has big boobs. This one is tall. This one is fat. Maddie is the most uncharitable person I’ve read in a while that wasn’t a villain She’s shallow and bored with their gossip, their talk of clothes and jewelry and their lives and thinks to herself how she and Florentina discuss art, music, religion, and how attentively Florentina listens to her, how so very not like other girls Florentina is. This stereotyping goes on throughout the portion of the book I read. Evil women are ugly and shallow, good girls don’t wear makeup. Evil women dress provocatively while good girls dress modestly. Evil women cheat, good women would never. Florentina sees a whore on the street and thinks: She could do better if she applied herself. The message here isn’t a kind one; it’s judgemental and hurtful and directed at other women in the story. This venom is never directed against Florentina or Maddie, only by them.
Which leads to another pet peeve. The author letting characters know information they shouldn’t, such as Maddie being suspicious for no real reason when Florentina comes home from a day out. Why is she suspicious? Because the author and we all know Florentina is the Night Flyer. When describing a woman — from Florentina’s POV — we’re told she’s tubercular, something the character had no way of knowing.
The messages in the first half of the book felt so shallow and hateful that I really didn’t want to keep reading. Again, Florentina is a decent character and I was interested in her story; I really didn’t like Maddie as a person because I found her shallow, vain, hateful and cruel. I am only able to give my opinion. There are those who will love this book and I am glad that they enjoy it. There are those who will enjoy this writing. I am, however, not one of them. No matter how good the idea — and it is such a cool idea — the writing turned me off and Maddie is so unpleasant that I was unwilling to continue and cannot in all honesty recommend this book.