The fun thing about historical fiction is that ambiguity and uncertainty inherent in certain time periods leave a lot of room for play. That leads to stories like The Scribe of Siena, about a neurosurgeon in New York who travels to Siena, Italy to continue her recently deceased brother's research. From there, she winds up on the trail of a possible conspiracy leading to the fall of the city, assuming she can survive long enough to share what she has learned.
I want to say upfront that the half star was docked from this book's score solely because of the length of some of the chapters. One was 43 pages and I am not a fan of chapters exceeding 15 pages in length. As you can likely see by the number of books I have going at any one point in time, I've got a bit of reading ADD.
That said, this book has FAR more strengths than weaknesses. Chief among them is Winawer's attention to detail, which feeds into and strengthens the narrative of the story. The world she creates in mid-14th Century Siena is rich and deeply imagined, coming to vivid life in my mind as I read. I don't remember the last book that was this effortless for me to imagine how things looked, felt, and smelled. As an example, I had never seen pictures of the Ospedale before, yet the other day I googled it out of curiosity and it was identical to what I had pictured as I read the book, down to the set-up of the other buildings and streets around it.
That takes a special level of skill and Melodie Winawer has got it.
Beatrice, our main character on this historical romantic adventure, was another relatively strong point. While she maybe could have been a little more flawed, it wasn't particularly necessary in this case due to the inherent flaws that came with a 21st Century woman being transported to 1347 and required to figure out how to function in a new, but old, society.
Overall, I very highly recommend this book and actually intend to buy a hard copy myself. I may even spring for a hard cover, and I save those for special cases.