August 15, 2009

The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis

It is hard to make a Queen who shoulders the blame for a religious massacre sympathetic, so Jeanne Kalogridis doesn’t try. Instead she goes the complete opposite direction. Giving us an unsentimental Queen who would commit any atrocity to save herself or someone she loves. Even as a girl she is already murdering and dabbling in black magic. For those of you unfamiliar with Catherine de Medici, the Italian born duchess was reduced to living in a convent after her family was deposed in Florence. In a true Cinderella story she marries the second son, Henry, of King Francoise of France. She ends up the Queen of France, and though a mere figurehead during her husbands rule, she has a great influence over the reigns of her sons. Because Catherine ruled France during such a tumultuous time, (religious upheaval, civil wars, weak kings), her reign was marked with political gaffes and intrigues, the most notably, The ST. Bartholomew’s Massacre leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of Huguenots (French Protestants). Never faltering and with clear determination, Catherine meets rivals for her husbands heart and traitors seeking to claim the throne.

Kalogridis’ Catherine is decidedly evil which makes for entertaining story telling and is historically probable. The author doesn’t try to excuse any of Catherine’s behavior, but she does give us fictionalized back story to try and establish her motivations. Since Kalogridis is prone to dramatics and excessive detail, (she’s also known for a lively look into the family of Dracula) let me say that if you’re looking for historical accuracy, this probably isn’t your novel. But if you’re looking for a spirited read that enlivens history into Catherine’s time, The Devil’s Queen is an excellent choice. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’d like to add that I was fortunate enough to pick up the audio version read by Kate Reading. Reading delivers a commanding Queen, and is pure magic to listen to. The French words are pronounced perfectly (to my English ears) and her pacing is spot on.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh, this sounds amazing. I will try and save for the audiobook, I trust you when you say it adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi! :)


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