LEONARDO’S SHADOW by Christopher Grey


or, My Astonishing Life as Leonardo da Vinci’s Servant
Age Range: 10 - 12
Email this review


It’s difficult to imagine who will be attracted to this plodding historical novel. Told in the first person by the young Giacomo, servant boy to the master artist, it lurches and rambles by turns. Curiously lacking in any sense of time or place, readers are told it’s 15th-century Milan, but little situates them there. Giacomo wants to learn to paint, but Leonardo will not teach him. There goodhearted female servant who mothers Giacomo eventually dies. In Grey’s hands, the artist comes across as a pompous windbag and completely uninteresting. There are blocks of text in which the author tells readers about mural and fresco painting or about mixing and making paint colors, but no feeling informs them and they do not advance the story. There is a plot of sorts involving alchemy and Giacomo’s unknown parentage, and his need to speed up Leonardo’s painting of the Last Supper, but it doesn’t amount to much. The author can’t even get Italian names quite right, using “da Vinci” as though it were Leonardo’s surname. Good idea, bad execution. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 1-4169-0543-X
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online: