Sunday, September 21, 2008

Leonardo’s Chair, by John DeSimone (River Oak)

(Click cover for more information)

I pulled Leonardo’s Chair off the bookshelf at my local Christian bookstore because of its curious title. I took it to the checkout counter because of the intriguing synopsis on the back cover. I’m glad I did both of those things. I highly recommend you do the same.

The title “character”, Leonardo’s chair, as you might surmise, is just that: a chair made by the great artist Leonardo Da Vinci. Frustrated that his life was waning and his artistic genius will die with him, Da Vinci builds an ornate chair and somehow imbues it with a supernatural power: his own artistic greatness. Anyone who sits in the chair can achieve the artistic mastery that Da Vinci himself had. However, the gift comes with a price—a terrible curse that entraps the unwary artist in his own ambition for greatness.

This price has been paid repeatedly throughout the family history of the Duke of Savoy. The Savoy dynasty has owned the chair since the 16th century—that is, until it’s lost just prior to World War II to the Nazis, as they plundered the great art treasures of Europe. A California artist, Vincent LaBont, acquires the chair and tastes of its mystical powers. When the chair is stolen and returned to the Duke of Savoy’s castle in the Italian Alps, Vincent dispatches his son, Paul, to recover it. The Duke has other plans, however, and Paul is caught up in an elaborate scheme that ultimately puts him in mortal danger—by the lure and the curse of the chair itself! Complicating the plot is the Duke’s beautiful daughter, Isabella, who has her own plans for the chair, unbeknownst to both her father and Paul.

The New World and the Old World clash in a fascinating story that is steeped in classical Renaissance history and the intricacies—and passion—of the art of painting. You won’t know who to trust, who to cheer, or who to boo, as Mr. DeSimone skillfully unfolds his story one brush stroke at a time.

It sometimes seems that authors, in their effort to produce something new, something different, something outside-the-box, occasionally stretch a story’s moral or theological theme so thin that it either disappears altogether, or—even worse—stays visible and travel to places it should never go. Mr. DeSimone has accomplished the former without resorting to the latter; that is, Leonardo’s Chair may be unlike any other novel you’ll find in a Christian bookstore, but its spiritual impact is stark, and its message solid. But Mr. DeSimone takes a risk in subtlety. Twice while reading this book I nearly set it aside when encountering Biblical arguments that go awry. But for the reputation of the publisher (River Oak is an imprint of Cook Communications Ministries), I may have followed through with my error. Thank the Lord for perseverance, though, because Mr. DeSimone delivers wonderfully on his message, using the seemingly logical arguments to illustrate the fallacy of faulty perspective. And, as someone who values subtlety in story-telling, I’m somewhat embarrassed that Mr. DeSimone caught me as flatfooted as he did.

All the better! Bravo!


Four Lights For Him said...

Very intriguing! I will check this one out when I'm finished reading the books I have lined up on my nightstand. :-) Thanks for the advice on the subtle messages. I'll be sure to keep a look out for them.

the mccann clan said...

I'm intrigued! My reading list is growing-ever larger, no thanks to your book reports! ;o) Thanks for sharing, I do think this is one I'll have to pick up - you know how much I love the Renaissance time period. Love you!