Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review - The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland

The Shadow QueenTitle: The Shadow Queen
Author:  Sandra Gulland
Series: Stand Alone
Pages: 336
Published:  April 8th 2014 by Doubleday
ISBN: 9780385537520
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Description: Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set. From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, Claudette finally witnesses her mother's astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. Working with playwrights Corneille, Molière and Racine, Claudette’s life is culturally rich, but like all in the theatrical world at the time, she's socially scorned.  A series of chance encounters gradually pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athénaïs de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV and reigning "Shadow Queen." Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athénaïs offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant. Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the theater only to find that court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king's bed.  Indeed, Claudette's "reputable" new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs, becomes ever more desperate to hold onto the King's favor, innocent love charms move into the realm of deadly Black Magic, and Claudette is forced to consider a move that will put her own life—and the family she loves so dearly—at risk. 

I Give This ...

It's a personal of mine to read a little bit more historical fiction that is not set in England.    I was intrigued by this one because of Versailles mainly and the idea of a mistress rising to such power.

I always wondered about how Claudette managed to catch the eye of Athenais.  It often seemed more like an attraction on both of their parts more than anything.  And being part of the world that Claudettee is, it would seem like their paths would very rarely cross.  I think Claudette intrigued Athenais and used her own powers of persuasion (and money) to bind Claudette to her.

I loved the inclusion of the theater world in this.  I've always loved the theater, playrights and the different world they lived in.  I think they gave up a lot to do what they loved.  The people came to see them and favor of the royalty created intense rivalries.  Yet, they had many of their basic privileges taken from them.  They lived on little despite their packed playhouses.  I admired their devotion.

Now I've obviously never been someone's mistress, but Athenais really put a lot of time and effort to catering to the King.  If I've learned anything in the many books I've read is that King's fancies can change on a whim.  Perhaps that is why she turned to spells and potions.  She knew her hold on him would never last but she was determined to be his named Queen.

I actually learned quite a bit from this book about the time period in France.  I loved being able to piece together pieces of history that I knew nothing about.  I actually went and looked up more information concerning Athenais and Louis XIV.  The book was a bit slow at times, but at only 300+ pages, it was easy to get through.

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