Traci L. Slatton,
(Delta, 2008)

Traci L. Slatton's Immortal has every reason to be a fascinating novel: it's set in the colorful city of Florence at the height of its power, it includes appearances by several of Italy's most famous historical figures and its narrator owns a mysteriously long life and an excessively passionate nature.

Luca Bastardo starts life in the lowest levels of society, but still manages to befriend great men like Giotto and finds hope of salvation through beautiful pieces of art. Later Luca's position rises through a relationship with the powerful and wealthy Medicis, enabling him to explore the wide spectrum of society. However, his long and shocking history keeps him perpetually separate, even from those he loves most.

Immortal is Slatton's debut novel, and it shows. She is afraid to portray the historical figures as anything other than the famous personages they are remembered as, even when she's supposed to be writing them as children. She is afraid to write romance, so Luca finds himself instantly possessed of a predestined love that appears briefly at the tail end of the book, in spite of a huge amount of buildup. She is afraid to tackle a logical approach to her own mystery, so everything is discovered by accident or coincidence.

Moreover, Slatton's worst fear seems to be trusting her audience. Important incidents in Luca's life are set up as essays: he states how his life was changed, describes what actually happened, and restates that his life was altered in this way. Thus, it is impossible to find any character growth because everyone knows the results before they happen, any surprise or excitement are extremely dulled, and the reader has no reason to experience the event with him. Having done her best to detach the readers' emotions, Slatton goes on to deprive the readers of engaging their minds by having Luca summarize past events and ask all the available questions about his future often enough to insult her readers' intelligence. The one thing Slatton is definitely not afraid to deliver is a massive amount of brutality.

Slatton set out to explore 14th-century Florence, the lives of several of history's lauded Italians, and the story of a very unusual man. Unfortunately, while it must have been pleasant to write about such intriguing things, the reasons to read Immortal failed to make it to the end result.

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review by
Whitney Mallenby

6 September 2008

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