An unforgettable adventure beginning where Shakespeare'sOthello leaves off
Wounded in love, tormented by his past, Shakespeare's most complex villain is brought magnificently to life in this tale of two adversaries--one an accused killer; the other, one of the most powerful men in Venice. Having escaped from Cyprus, accused of the murders of the governor, known as the Moor, and his lovely young wife, Iago is now locked in battle with Annibale Malipiero, known as Il Terribile, the chief inquisitor of Italy's greatest city.
Malipiero is repelled by the more brutal tasks of the interrogante. His obsession is with the very nature of evil. What makes a man into a murderer, he longs to know? Is Iago a lone psychopath, or does he lie at the heart of a more widespread Ottoman conspiracy? Malipiero knows that torture will not provide him with the answers he seeks. But there is, perhaps, a more audacious and unusual route to the truth . . .
Exuberantly inventive, thrillingly complex, and richly entertaining, Iago will captivate fans already familiar with Shakespeare and appeal to anyone who loves a rich historical novel. Iago marks the emergence of a remarkable new literary voice.
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Henry Holt and Co.
January 03, 2012
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Excerpt from Iago by David Snodin
1. The Castle
On a disconcertingly mild February afternoon, some fifteen hundred and twenty years after Christ, two lords of Venice and a Florentine labored up a peak in the string of mountains that dominates much of the northern coast of the island of Cyprus. To the south a never-ending flatland, thickly forested, glimmered under a cloudless sky. Their destination remained far above them; they could not see it yet, because the peak was forested too.
Neither of the Signors had made so precipitous a trek in their long lives, though one was a soldier of great experience. They were wearing thick cloaks, as they would have in their home city, a thousand leagues north, so were hot and irritable. They had ridden hard for the best part of three hours to the base of the mountain, had endured an almost inedible lunch at an inn, and, because the trail could not accommodate horses, they had been offered a couple of bony, malodorous mules. They regretted declining them.
In strong contrast to their darkening humor, the Florentine seemed sprightly. His ascent was less arduous than theirs, not on account of his youth but because he was being carried by a pair of burly retainers in a chair strapped between two poles, for he had only one leg. The lords of Venice, fifty-seven and sixty-five years of age respectively, but with both legs intact, envied him. The ease of his passage, not to mention his high spirits, made him, in their opinion, less than endearing.
"Half a century old, Signors," the young man proclaimed, pointing upward, "but still sturdy and impregnable. Built by the lords of Byzantium as a protection against Arab incursion and subsequently expanded by the Lusignan kings, it was once called the Castle of the Lion, for it was besieged by the English Crusader King Richard. But today it is more commonly referred to as Buffavento, a shortening of Buffa di Vento."
As if in affirmation, a sudden and surprising gust of cold air almost toppled one of the Venetians, propelling his hat down the craggy path. A fortunately placed soldier, one of many following the party at a respectful distance, hurried to return it.
The Florentine laughed, annoying the briefly hatless Venetian still more. "Along with the other hill castles on the island, it is no longer thought to serve any strategic function--except as a place from which to espy invaders from the sea. But the steepness of the surrounding cliffs and this path being the only means of access make it an excellent place of confinement."
"Which is why you've put the murderer here," said Graziano Stornello, the elder of the two nobles. He'd been rather affronted by the young man's presumption that he knew nothing of history. He knew a fair amount--especially about military history and, indeed, the building of castles.
"Certainly," the Florentine replied.
"It's not very ... convenient though, is it?" puffed the other Venetian, Graziano Stornello's younger brother Lodovico (who had briefly lost his hat). "Wouldn't it be more sensible to keep him closer to hand?"
The Florentine motioned to his bearers to stop awhile. "You must understand, Signors, that this is no ordinary villain. He is like a ... like a ... a pestilence, a ... foul infection, an insidious contagion that cannot be felt until it is too late. He is a danger to all who come near him."
"I only meant," gasped Lodovico Stornello as they trudged on, "that for the purposes of interrogation it seems quite remote."
"Interrogation has proved futile thus far, though we continue to make efforts..." The Florentine raised an eyebrow. "The man has refused to speak a word since he was arrested."
The lords glanced at each other.
"Not a word?" asked Graziano Stornello.
The patricians allowed themselves to hang back as the Florentine was transported farther up the path and around yet another bend, not least because they needed to rest their aching legs.
"I think this criminal he talks of should come back to Venice with me," Graziano Stornello said quietly.
"I concur," his brother replied. "He should be placed in the hands of the interroganti and subjected to proper inquisitorial methods. They've probably only tickled him here."
"A contagion..." Graziano Stornello mused. "That's an interesting way of describing a man. And if he is indeed a danger to all who come close to him, as the young fellow claims, then I think the sooner he is removed from this volatile land the better."
"I don't suppose they even have the strappado here!" exclaimed Lodovico Stornello.
Graziano Stornello laid a hand on his kinsman's shoulder. "That's a shortcoming you will be able to remedy, I'm sure, when you're governor."
"Not much farther, lords!" the young Florentine shouted from above. They could see him waving through the trees.
"Arrogant pup," Lodovico Stornello muttered. "Didn't like him from the moment we landed. Swanking about as if he owns the place."
"Technically he does," Graziano Stornello said. "Until it's formally handed over to you. I shall perform the ceremony tonight."
Lodovico Stornello gazed south. There was good hunting to be had, apparently, in the vast forest beneath him. He saw mountains beyond it--loftier still than the range within which they stood, judging by the clouds that covered their peaks. And in the far distance a city sparkled: the capital, Nicosia. He would no doubt have a palazzo there. Indeed, he might have any number of palazzi. But then he shivered in the icy wind. "I'm not sure I want it."
They'd traveled for a month over rough seas to reach this colony, and Lodovico Stornello, who was generally forthright in his opinions, had not once vacillated during the voyage. This sudden hesitation was unsettling. "It produces fruit of many excellent varieties," Graziano Stornello ventured. "You said yourself the wine we had last night was more than passable."
"But, as you admitted, it's ... volatile ... full of rebels..."
"Most outposts of the empire are, brother. They don't like us being here."