I have to confess that my interest in the Borgia family comes from playing the Assassin’s Creed games — I love knowing what has been cleverly included in the games, where things diverge, etc. So I knew both that the Borgias were a pretty colourful family, and that Assassin’s Creed probably emphasised that, and was definitely biased against them (other than in acknowledging Rodrigo Borgia’s cleverness, I can’t think of anything else positive about him or Cesare in the games).
Still, this book made them feel rather dry and lifeless, and not because they were actually any less turbulent and power hungry than the Assassin’s Creed games depict. Instead, it’s Hibbert’s style that kills it: rather than analysis, he presents lists of facts. It’s not even that his prose is boring, because it’s perfectly clear and easy to follow. It’s just that lack of analysis, and even a certain impartiality — I have to confess that when a historian writes a pop-history book about a particular figure or family, I want to feel their bias coming through, their interest in the subject. I know I’m fickle, since I do turn my nose up at some books which do too much guessing about what so-and-so was thinking of feeling, but there it is. I don’t just read for the information: I do also want to be entertained. The Borgias rather failed on that, for me.