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The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis

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gyrehead
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The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis

Post by gyrehead » Mon February 16th, 2009, 1:59 am

I'm not sure I'm a good judge. I levy a significant PITA tax on all my historical reading. Not sure why but I just seem to be much more critical in this genre than others.

That said. Here we go.

Did I like it? Not really. Did I dislike it? Not really. Overall I found the book a bit dull and plodding. Which probably lent to my overall less than enthusiastic response. Catherine de Medici is an easy sell for me.

First, I think Catherine comes off as a bit too "good". Even though she does some bad things, Catherine comes off as way too altruistic. She dabbles in what would be the ultimate crimes for her time, and yet still comes off as a goodie two shoes.

Now keep in mind. I don't want evil hand wringing cackling with glee evil. But I wanted someone a bit more in line with someone who kept power in some incredibly uncertain and precarious times. So even if I don't get ruthless I would have at least wanted pragmatic.

Second, the book focuses on Catherine's dealings with the occult. But the focus seems too heavyhanded*. There are some relaly insignificant scenes that take pages and pages to cover a few moments really and then a paragraph that leap frogs in time again and again. Throw in some weird unnecessarily infodumps (which in their defense were minor compared to others I have waded through) and the flow of the book just wasn't where I thought it should be. I ended up reading the book rather fast but I still felt like I had not actually taken anything in. There really was not the strong compelling substance I want in a book, let alone one devoted to such a character with supporting cast and events.

Kalogridis makes some rather odd accuracy choices as well. She mentions at the end that Catherine bore ten children. But in the novel itself the author decides to pare the list down in a significant manner that ties into the plot but really is a silly stunt for such a book and one that the plot didn't actually demand so much as perhaps fit together way too conveniently. But gone is daughter Claude and son Francois-Hercule. Both who made an impact on events in their time and Claude is the ancestress of pretty much most of the Catholic ruling houses still around in the 18th century. I know that is probably being pedantic but it always bothers me when historical fiction authors just start excising people that can be mentioned in a sentence or two and not change the story really at all. Especially since it seems the author did do some research.

I don't mean to be a downer on a book that so many are looking forward to. A grain of salt and all that. I mean, I absolutely loathed Christie Dickason's books and Alison Weir's latest fiction and non-fiction efforts (well Mistress of the Monarchy wasn't so much loathsome as it was dry, dull and stilted with a really awkward structure). I do think Kalogrisis can put out some decent prose and writes with a very readable style. It is her storytelling and plotting that I think I have the most problems.



*I'm really starting to get annoyed at the whole overdone "prophecy/foretelling" gimmick that I see more and more often in historical fiction. I have no problem with prophecy playing a part in terms of it illustrating the beliefs and values and where it actually is mentioned historically. But I really hate the silly forced use that authors seem to find clever. Where they write about someone who always has some fortune told of how great he or she will be and how wonderful or horrible the fate that awaits. And then refer to it over and over again as the character's impetus. I think it is a cheat because it lets the author be lazy as to character motivation and personality and foibles, flaws and follies. And it just seems cheesy for an author to put in this "clever" foretelling just because they happen to know that, say, Josephine would marry Napoleon or Alexander would die at 33. We get it. You know how the story ends.

gyrehead
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Post by gyrehead » Mon February 16th, 2009, 5:30 pm

Heh. I didn't put this here so don't hold it against me that it is not an actual review ;)

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diamondlil
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Post by diamondlil » Mon February 16th, 2009, 7:44 pm

No, I put it here, simply because it will make it easier for other people to fin your comments when they read the book themselves and to do a comparison to their reading experience.
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tsjmom
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Post by tsjmom » Thu February 26th, 2009, 12:25 am

I'm going to add this to my TBR pile. I find it curious that there isn't more HF with Catherine as she's a VERY interesting and intriguing character!

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Telynor
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Post by Telynor » Fri February 27th, 2009, 4:18 am

[quote=""tsjmom""]I'm going to add this to my TBR pile. I find it curious that there isn't more HF with Catherine as she's a VERY interesting and intriguing character![/quote]

The best book that I've found so far on Catherine is the nonfiction one by Leonie Freida, that helped me to sort out a lot of the various myths, and gave some real insight into her character.

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