When CELESTINA’S BURNINGS opens, Celestina DiCapria of Florence, Italy loathes witches. In fact, she is only too motivated to join the witch-burning crusade against them since she believes her beloved father was killed by a witch. Then her heart meets the heart of Rinaldo SanGiorgio, an artist longing to paint magnificent frescos, just as the angry eradicators of witches turn their attention to eliminating beautiful master works of art from magical Florence as well. As is problematic with all persecutions aimed towards ridding the world of Evil however, what exactly ‘evil’ is quickly becomes a somewhat less-than-objective goal, subject to the varying viewpoints of accusers and before long anyone can find themselves damned for being troublesome and in need of eradication; even if the accusation is hurled by someone with personally-motivated reasons. Thus Celestina soon finds herself accused of witchcraft too by a rabidly lustful Friar Thane Bruckner and his violent band of evil-hunters.
Annemarie Schiavi Pedersen’s story is most entertaining when characters are engaged in witty or argumentative banter/behavior (“Simona withdrew her dagger. Its blade was as long and pointed as a Venetian’s nose. By the way Monsignor bolted for the door, the hem of his blue cape flapping at his feet, it was clear he read the look on her face: one of murderous rage.”) Some of the book’s phrasing does read a bit odd or pedantic (“Find her, and be quick as a priest inside a whorehouse about it”), but overall–from the vindictive Monsignor Baldasare to the passionate young lovers–CELESTINA’S BURNINGS is a historical novel alive with the flavors of Renaissance Italy. It offers readers a chance to immerse in the powerful currents of this unique time and place where ancient plus misguided knowledge of the supernatural exist side by side. Will the great love Celestina shares with Rinaldo, along with their combined efforts, be enough to save her and a host of others, innocently accused? Can the great works of art be saved as well?
Sprinkled with authentic-sounding Italian and warmed by such relationships as Celestina shares with her nonna, CELESTINA’S BURNINGS by Annemarie Schiavi Pedersen is a grand and engagingly rich historical adventure worth savoring.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader