Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Leonardo and the Death Machine

Leonardo and the Death Machine

Robert J. Harris
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
HarperCollins UK, 2005   ISBN: 978-0007194230

No one, least of all Leonardo da Vinci, could have imagined how running a simple errand could turn out to cause so much trouble. Leonardo is an apprentice to the famous painter Andrea del Verrocchio and his master sends him to the house of another artist to deliver a bill. While he is there Leonardo sees a drawing which appears to be the plan of some machine. For some reason Leonardo cannot help feeling that the machine is dangerous, that it is going to be used for some evil purpose. The fact that enemies of the Medici family appear to connected to the plans in some way only makes the whole situation look more sinister and worrying.

In fact the whole atmosphere in Florence is uncertain. Everyone knows that Luca Pitti is trying to remove the Medici family from their prominent position as leaders in the Florentine political arena. Without even trying Leonardo is soon caught up in the conflict. In the company of a slave girl who has been framed for murder, on the run, and being pursued by Pitti’s dangerous henchmen, Leonardo desperately tries to find out how the political situation in Florence is tied to the murder and the mysterious machine.

This gripping work of historical fiction gives a young Leonardo da Vinci a face, a personality, and place in his world. Much is known about Leonardo when he was older, but his childhood is something of a mystery, and this book gives those empty years substance and gives the reader a feel for what Leonardo’s world was like. Many of the characters in the story were real people and many of the events described in the book really did happen.