Murder and Glass in Medieval Venice. “The Eye Stone” by Roberto Tiraboschi, Translated by Katherine Gregor

First an admission. This book opens with the life of a 12th century cleric who spends his days copying the books in the monastery’s library reading them in his spare time. This is something of an escapist fantasy for me. That’s my confession. I’m betting that I’m not alone. It’s not something I would want to do for life, but for a long weekend… Sounds kind of nice, even with the uncomfortable beds and the cold stone walls.

The world building aspects were my favorite part of Roberto Tiraboschi’s Medieval Noir The Eye Stone. The descriptions of 12th century Venice, a time when the city was just coming into being, were on the longish side but they were also very entertaining and seamlessly woven into the narrative. It wasn’t until about halfway through that I realized just how long they were and how often they occurred. The Eye Stone could almost be a travelogue, even a guidebook, to Venice.

I believe that historical fiction and fantasy fiction are very close cousins. Both must create a world foreign to the reader by establishing certain rules the characters will follow that are different from our own. People in the past will not behave like people in the present do. Life in Narnia is different from life in “reality” just like life in Medieval Venice is different from life in modern Italy. The author has to set the stage for the reader to navigate the story. World building plays an important part in both genres.

While I do enjoy fantasy fiction, I really hate world building. The less of it the better. The history of the dwarven wars bores me to tears; just get on with the story. I’m a little more tolerant of it in historical fiction, but not by much. Which is way I was surprised by how much I liked it here. The world building was my favorite part of The Eye Stone.

The story, just for the record, concerns the cleric/copyist mentioned above. He is losing his eyesight, which, in this period before the invention of eye-glasses, means he will lose his place in the monastery where he lives and works. He travels to Venice where he hopes to find the rumored crystals that will enable him to see again. There he gets caught up in intrigue among the local glassblowers whom someone has been murdering leaving their corpses floating in the lagoon, their eyes scooped out and replaced with glass balls. There’s also a romance with a slave girl.

The world building was the best part.

One thought on “Murder and Glass in Medieval Venice. “The Eye Stone” by Roberto Tiraboschi, Translated by Katherine Gregor

Comments are closed.