"The opening pages of 'Aly' are compelling, dragging the reader in, almost against their will, with an air of mystery and promise, and slight but tangible menace that thrills the soul and makes one want to know more, but with the warning that once read this can never be unread...
Taking a little known and never before written about character depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, first-time author Peter Cane weaves a spell binding story around this Moorish slave, revealing not only who his father is, but his owner, and combining all the well known artists and personages of the era in a gripping multi-layered story that will leave fans of the Da Vinci Code hanging on to every word.
In a friendly and confiding monologue style, reminiscent of Moshin Hamid at his best, Cane explores the personal lives and relationships of more known names than are in Brett’s Peerage, showing how they interweave and shapeshift to suit their purposes. Meticulously researched, the book takes us travelling and much of the early action is set on the benighted island of Hispaniola, where the inhabitants were exterminated by explorers who are also deeply involved and entwined in the saga. Not only is the plot multi-layered and complex, but the characters are also multi-layered and no one is who they really seem to be. It is the story of an enigma in a conundrum wrapped up in a puzzle! In addition the book can be read on many levels, each reader finding his or her own truth and story within its pages.
Fleeing from a heinous act, the protagonist Aly escapes to the afore mentioned Hispaniola and whilst on board ship he muses on the duality of good versus evil, a theme that recurs throughout the tome, at one point ‘proving’ that all evil can be justified by the Bible. The reader is aware that Aly’s status is that of a slave, but as he has previously hinted that his father is a very famous artist, the exact nature of his standing is ambiguous. We glean that names to these people (as yet mostly unidentified) are not used as identifiers but as tools to further their cause, an unusual stance that becomes clearer as the book progresses.
Written in beautiful language with the assured confidence of a writer of many years standing, it is a surprise to find that this is Peter Cane’s first book. He masterfully displays his knowledge of the Bible and Religion, Mythology, History, Art and Artists and the execution of Art Works, Language, Geography and even touches on Leonardo’s Philosophy of Painting, without ever the reader feeling they are being lectured to. We are treated to a look at Erasmus’ satire about Pope Julius and a fascinating look at his life and then, interspersed with the more learned elements, we have a poetically beautiful description of nature, slotted in with the ease of a good wordsmith.
This novel is a tour de force that needs to be read."
Diana Milne - 'The Review'