A Sundial In A Grave: 1610 is what the Kushiel books wanted to be, but less gilded. Late Renaissance, swordplay, espionage, desperate adventure, and dominance/submission games? Check. It’s possible there’s even a Mary Sue character, depending on how you look at things.
And yet A Sundial In A Grave does not over-enthuse about the joys of pain in the bedroom, it does not linger endlessly on the prowess of the hero, and it is not a morass of angst. It swashbuckles, all the while aware of the contradictions that lie at the heart of the protagonist. He is a duellist: he is a man who desires — but that would be telling.
It doesn’t quite so much beat the living crap out of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, but if you were wanting plot with your mock historical, well, this would be the appropriate port of call. The territory is similar, if more mystical. Where one plot is driven by the wisdom of Isaac Newton, the other is driven by Giordano Bruno.
I loved it.