Before it became famous for its food and football, Italy was a land of rival city states.
Within a particular city state, power and control were in the hands of a single wealthy family.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, two of the most powerful Italian families were the Borgias and the Medicis.
Theresa Breslin's The Medici Seal is set in Italy during the violent power struggles of the Borgias and the Medicis. Breslin's book puts Leonardo da Vinci at the centre of the story and builds a breathtaking, solid adventure around him.
It's Italy in 1502. A young teenager called Matteo is on the run, fleeing from a brutal gang of outlaws. Matteo wants to keep his background a secret and knows he will have to lie to survive. He is determined that no one is going to find out who he is or the secret he is carrying with him.
By chance, he falls in with some friends of Leonardo de Vinci and is taken into the da Vinci household. The great Leonardo works for Cesare Borgia as his chief engineer, so the da Vinci family is currently travelling around the Borgia territories, checking out the Borgia war preparations. There is betrayal, death and intrigue in the air.
Matteo watches, listens and learns as he travels with the da Vincis across Italy on Borgia business. No one is to be trusted. But despite the undercurrent of danger, Leonardo goes about his work of painting magnificent frescoes, inventing machinery and dissecting corpses to learn about the human body.
The great man does not know that the boy he has befriended has a secret which both the Borgia and the Medici families would do anything to learn.
The Medici Seal
By Theresa Breslin
Published by Doubleday
ISBN 0 385 61020 3