Marie-Antoinette has long been hated and scorned as being a superficial, partying, uncaring queen – but here we get her story. At only fourteen she is betrothed to the dauphin of France and presented as a future queen. Rules and etiquette are poured upon her in a foreign country where there are many already wishing for her to fail. She is under the pressure of perfection from the get-go – but often falls short.
What springs forth from the years of stress and scrutiny is a spirit desperate for love, attention, and fun. Yet she doesn’t fully comprehend what is going on beyond the palace walls – the anger, starvation, and increasing rage of the peasants.
She doesn’t know yet that she will pay with her life.
This is her story, from her point of view.
I am a huge fan of Carolyn Meyer and all the other books in the Young Royals series. I have read them all but one (and want to get that rectified ASAP!), which is Duchessina. But I have been floored by the jarringly real, touching, sad, and very memorable stories she has brought to the table among Elizabeth I (Beware, Princess Elizabeth), Mary Tudor (Mary, Bloody Mary), Catherine of Aragon (Patience, Princess Catherine), and Anne Boleyn (Doomed Queen Anne). So, I doubted that this one, featuring Marie-Antoinette (who has always fascinated me), would disappoint.
And I was right.
The Bad Queen starts off with many terrible losses for Marie when she loses her beloved and kind governess is dismissed for being too easy on Marie. Instead she gets someone who provides no affection or caring, but only strict teaching. Then we get a firsthand look at absolutely barbaric dental work to beautify Marie – all for Marie to secure the betrothal to Louis-Auguste, dauphin of France. Oh my. It’s an effective way to start and immediately introduces us to a girl that you sympathize with, despite her faults. After all, don’t we all have faults?
Carolyn Meyer really lets us sink into this story, providing riveting detail on the perplexing, maddening etiquette required in the bizarre and decadent French society. Many of these ridiculous, stern rules are the beginnings of rebellion in Marie’s trained obedience.
Engrossing drama and political intrigue populate The Bad Queen, showing us the immaturity, naiveté, and understandable desire for amusement in a young queen – after so many years of misery – creating an ominous tone, as we know the horror it’ll all lead to. Meyer breathes vibrancy and life into history without flinching.
This is a haunting page-turner, truly gripping – I felt frustrated with Marie-Antoinette, but also couldn’t help but wonder what I would have done in her shoes at that age, with that upbringing, in that situation. Overall, it is her inevitable fate that unsettles you.
Increasing hostility, danger, and violence is disturbing – and you feel like you are in the thick of it, as though it as real as the air you are breathing. As the mob gains control of France it is enough to make you sick, make you weep, and make you have nightmares – it is that potent.
The Bad Queen is a heartbreaker – absolutely unforgettable. This another remarkable novel by Carolyn Meyer, an author with an incredible ability to give a fictitious first-person narrative in history and create an amazing reading experience.
Sign me up for her next foray into the Young Royals series – The Wild Queen, about Mary, Queen of Scots. In the meantime, where’s Duchessina?
You can’t afford to miss even one of these staggering titles – seriously.