Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Reviwe: The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland

Title: The Shadow Queen
Author: Sandra Gulland
Source: Amazon Vine
Genre: Historical Romance, 1660's France
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

From the author of the beloved Josephine B. Trilogy, comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative and dangerous woman in the 17th century French court: the mistress of the charismatic Sun King.

1660, Paris

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. 

Set against the gilded opulence of a newly-constructed Versailles and the War of Theaters, THE SHADOW QUEEN is a seductive, gripping novel about the lure of wealth, the illusion of power, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong-willed women whose actions could shape the future of France.

The Shadow Queen delivered much more than I expected.  Full of intrigue, scandal and secrets - religious cults and fantastic plays.  The tale of Claudette begins as a poor player and spans many levels fame.  From helping her mother become a famous actress to being the confidante of The Shadow Queen - with much in between.  

As part of a family of players, Claudette leads a very interesting life surrounded by some very unique people.  One of these people is knows as Athenais - met in a variety of ways throughout the year, Claudette finds herself the woman's confidante.  This leads to quite an interesting series of events as Athenais tries to maintain her place as the king's favorite mistress.  There was a surprising amount of action in this - duels, floods, missing people - at times the book got quite exciting for a historical fiction novel that wasn't about a war.

I loved the way the story was told.  I really felt like I was there watching it all from a hidden little nook in the wall.  The clothes, the rooms, the people - all come to life very nicely.  The ending was very nice and I loved how Sandra Gulland wrapped up so many of the pieces so nicely and naturally.  I don't know much about the time period, but she did include a little bit at the back covering where she too literary licence and what was considered fact which helped me understand the time even more.

*This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

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