A young novice escapes the confines of the convent to risk it all for her art.
Set on the cusp of the 16th century, Strauss’ sequel to Passion Blue (2012) finds her artistically gifted heroine, Giulia, still trapped behind Santa Marta’s convent walls and fearing for her future there. As her mentor succumbs to disease, she entrusts Giulia alone with her secret recipe for “Passion blue,” the dazzling ultramarine color that has brought the Santa Marta workshop fame beyond Padua—and for which Giulia had been held captive by her mentor’s father, a famous artist willing to stop at nothing to acquire it. Giulia flees Padua disguised as a boy, hoping to apprentice in the workshop of a Venetian artist, but no sooner is she out of Padua then she is robbed by vagrants and terribly beaten. A kindly noblewoman returning to Venice with her son takes the disguised Giulia under her protection, leading to thrilling adventures as Giulia attempts to develop her artistry without revealing her true identity. Here, Strauss delves deeper into the Renaissance studio, exploring the intricacies of paint-making and production while cleverly stressing themes of artistic integrity and the importance of pursuing one’s passion even in the face of seemingly insurmountable hurdles like conventional sex roles of the period.
This combination of page-ripping plot and insight into the creative process is as rare and luminous as the color Strauss imagines. (Historical fantasy. 11 & up)