Book Review: "The Sixth" by Avery Hays

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes."

(c) Diadema Press / Buy on Amazon
In The Sixth, a young Portuguese woman, Florbela Sarmentos, moves to the Sixth Arrondissement turn-of-the-century Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a painter. However, she isn't just an aspiring artist - she is in political exile from her native country, where her father is held prisoner. This book is both a deftly written political thriller and historical romance. 

The "revolutionary" aspect of the storyline, with Florbela's mission of saving her father from his wrongful imprisonment, is thoroughly exciting. After contacting her father's friend, Professor Almeida, he is assassinated by the Ordo Crucis Incendio, or the Order of the Burning Cross. Florbela makes the daring decision not to go into hiding. When an encrypted painting is found with alarming and important information, she fights to protect it and bring it to the Portuguese resistance.

Meanwhile, Florbela also ventures into the famous circle of artists living in La Ruche. Some of the famous residents include Modigliani, Rivera, and Chagall - who somehow all manage to be some of Florbela's closest friends. A critique would be that it seems a bit of a stretch - although they were truly all friends with each other.

Florbela is a gutsy, if naive and overconfident character. That characterization is refreshing and realistic, and her persistence to avoid living in fear is especially admirable. There are plenty of twists that keep the reader on their toes.

One thing that is rather frustrating in recent fiction is the consistent love triangle - was it really necessary for Florbela to be longed for by both Armand, a "dashing French rebel" and a handsome socialite. Another criticism would be the disjointed nature of some of the novel; in some chapters, Florbela thought only of her art and her roommate, and then it would rapidly switch over to the assassin, her father, and the risk to her life.

Overall, however, it was a well-written, energetically paced storyline that both history and art buffs will find highly enjoyable. Four stars.

This novel was sent to Off The Book without compensation by Diadema Press through NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.