I would just like to say on behalf of this book that Christine Shaw did a wonderful job in explaining who Pope Julius II was. I just recently wrote a research paper on the influences of the Church on Michelangelo while painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling and this book was the only one I could find that gave me sufficient information on this Pope. I had never realized how much power a pope had and the fact that Julius II was so significant in Michelangelo's artistic life. In many ways if it wasn't for him then Michelangelo would not have this piece of artwork that makes people that have not even heard of the Vatican go, 'oh yes the Sistine Chapel with the Creation of Adam'. I am so pleased that such a book on one pope is avaliable for people who have limited resources for their school research papers.
Today, we probably think of Julius II only in relation to the great artists in his employ, such as Michelangelo and Bramante. Unfortunately, this book does not provide much perspective on his relationships to the artists of the time, nor on the new ideas of art that were in the air. Shaw seems to write about this side of Julius rather as a chore, for what she apparently prefers to dwell on, quite at length, is Julius' political life before and during the papacy. If you are interested in the politics of the period, you will find the book very good in providing highly factual information. Shaw does not appear to enjoy speculation and seems uncomfortable with any information that she cannot tie to a specific source, but you have to respect her for trying to wade through all of the apocrypha that has sprung up around Julius. I had two other problems with this book: it assumes that you already know a good deal about the politics of the Italian Renaissance,and it also closes with Julius' death, rather than giving us some indication of how the policies he instituted as Pope played out after him -- even a little information on what his immedate and longer term legacy was and how he was regarded would have been useful.