Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

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The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Book Review: The Secret Supper

The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra *****

If you are expecting another Da Vinci Code you will almost certainly be disappointed by The Secret Supper, which is not the same kind of fast-paced popular thriller. For one thing, it is set in the 15th century, during the creation of the Last Supper, and that alone slows it down. Also, it is more driven by character development than plot - not to criticize Brown's book, but there is a different emphasis, as well as a different vantage point on some of the same theories.

Father Agostino Levyre is sent to Milan by the Inquisition to investigate allegations made by a mysterious corresponent known to them only as the Soothsayer. According to the Soothsayer, the Duke of Milan and Leonardo da Vinci are conspiring to enshrine heretical ideas in Leonardo’s works, in particular the Last Supper, and Father Agostino must discover both the truth or falsity of the allegations and the identity of the Soothsayer. Sierra’s writing talents (and those of his translator, Alberto Manguel) are buttressed by his previous scholarly work in this area. In the process the inquisitor finds himself undergoing his own spiritual transformation.

At least one other reviewer at Amazon felt that the subject matter was too esoteric, but I would hope that readers would be inspired to do some more delving into the transmission of previously unknown traditions from Byzantium to the West in the fifteenth century and the possibility that “heretical” movements that had supposedly been wiped out survived into the Renaissance and influenced Leonardo. Recommended reading: The Albigensian Crusades by Joseph Strayer and The Perfect Heresy by Stephen O'Shea, which I've just started but seems to be very well-written.

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