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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

*[Blog Tour Review & Giveaway] The Shadow Queen: A Novel by Sandra Gulland

The Shadow Queen: A Novel
Shadow Queen Banner


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.
Summary & Cover taken from
Length: 336 pages (Hardcover)
Source: Review Copy
Available Formats: Print/E-book/Audio
Publication Date: April 8th 2014 by Doubleday

As much as I love historical fiction I am ashamed to admit that I haven't ventured into France or the era in which The Shadow Queen was set nor am I familiar with Athenais de Montespan who the book is titled after, and now that I have dipped my toe into this era and know a bit about Athenais de Montespan I am very curious about everything that The Shadow Queen introduced me too.

I love how this novel was told not through the eyes of Athenais, but by the girl, Claude de Vin des Œillets who would later become one of her ladies in waiting. As fascinating as Athenias is I feel as though reading a story about her life from the point of view of one of her servants gives us an even deeper look into her life.

Claude de Vin des Œillets turned out to be a very dynamic character and one that I ended up really feeling for. I liked the progression of the story from the time Claude was a young girl of 12 years of age up until she left court in her late 40s. I thought she was absolutely fascinating and found myself enchanted by her life. I thought her family history (she was the daughter of two famous actors) and her life among players (actors) to be really interesting. I know very little about the theater in the 1600s other than the fact that the upper classes tended not to mix with players, no matter how much they enjoyed seeing them act. So I really enjoyed the look into that world that the author provided especially since the fact that Claude's involvement with the players is what introduced her to Athenias.

 I'm glad to say that Claude was the main focus of the novel. We of course get to know other characters like Athenias, the King, various playwrights and players but Claude was definitely the one we learned the most about and I enjoyed how the author chose to write her. She was a smart woman who was a quick thinker, a bit naïve, and a woman who loved her family and thought it was her responsibility to care for them and she would see that they get the best care that they could. She was a very likable character and that made the novel speed right along.

The amount of research and care that went into The Shadow Queen was evident from the early pages, I thought that the amount of detail about the era, and the people as well as the details of life in that time was wonderful and enchanting, I felt as though I got a crash course in court politics and got a lovely feel of the way life was and that made the book come to life for me and the back drop really made the characters come to life.

Overall, I only have one complaint about the novel and that is that I wished that we got to know some of the other characters a bit more but other than that I really enjoyed this book and I'm glad that it served as my introduction to an author who I've been meaning to read for ages but hadn't gotten to prior to reading The Shadow Queen. This book brought Paris in the latter part of the 1600's to life for me with a compelling plot that had me smiling, cringing and wanting to reach into the book and become a part of the story myself.

I would recommend this to all fans of historical fiction especially historical fiction set in Paris during the 1600s as well as those who have an interest in the theater wars which play a fairly large part of the novel. I read this one in a day and thought it was so wonderful that I've already got another of the author's works on hold at the library.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are 100% my own.
Loved It!
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  1. so glad you enjoyed this great book and you discovered a new author to love! Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm. Emma

  2. What a fun, different question! If I was a mermaid I would be a greenish match the ocean :).

    I absolutely love historical fiction and this cover has been calling my name for a while! And the fact that I don't know that much about the characters makes it even more exciting. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

  3. This sounds like a great historical fiction. I just saw this on another blog today and the intro (where they're wandering the French countryside heading for Poitiers) kinda drew me in. I like that France is the setting and that the theater plays such a large role, and I'm a sucker for traveling player groups. :) Definetly interested in this one, and hope it does well. I'll be picking it up.

  4. I'd be turquoise with touches of pink and violet purple. Those are my favorite colors, other than navy blue, and I don't think i'd want to be a navy blue mermaid.

  5. I think the mermaid question must be left over from another event. I remember answering it before. However, if I felt like standing out I'd go with my favorites, red, black and gold. That wouldn't blend into much. Thanks for the chance to win this new book.

  6. OK see this question might not be for this giveaway, but I will answer anyways. If I were a mermaid I think I would like to be a shiny, metallic violet if I were not a shiny sea aquamarine.


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*Note: This is an award free blog, thanks for thinking of me but I simply don't have the time to pass it along!