Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: The Bad Queen - Carolyn Meyer

The Bad Queen by Carolyn Meyer
Series: Young Royals #6
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on April 12, 2010
Published by Harcourt
Pages: 420
Read From: 7.3.12 - 7.5.12

Marie-Antoinette is given endless instructions before she leaves Austria at the age of fourteen to marry the dauphin of France. In her new home at the grand palace of Versailles, her every move is scrutinized by the cruel and gossipy members of the French court. Marie-Antoinette tries to adhere to their stifling rules of etiquette, but sometimes, this fun-loving young woman can't help but indulge herself with scandalous fashions, taboo recreations, elaborate parties - and even a forbidden romance. 
Most damaging to her reputation is that after years of marriage, Marie-Antoinette has not fulfilled the most important requirement: to produce an heir to the throne. Sadness and frustration lead the young queen to become ever more recklessly extravagant in her ways, much to the outrage of the poor and suffering common people of France. 
When angry revolutionaries arrive at Versailles to take her and the king to Paris, Marie-Antoinette has no idea what horrors are in store. The luxurious life she led, and the monarchy she spent her life serving, are about to come crashing down. Though she would be remembered by the revolutionaries as an obscene spendthrift, perhaps Marie-Antoinette had more in common with them than they thought - for she too was a rebel who lived by her own rules.


Cover Blurb: It leers! Ahhh! Other than that fact, I like it. The colors and obvious attention to historical dress, and the pretty gold lettering for the title.

What I Liked: Here was a Marie Antoinette that I could sympathize with - and then later shake my head at, but still understand her reasons. It could not have been easy having to leave her entire life behind - indeed, her very identity - at such a young age, and move to a foreign country and court, marry someone she’d never met, and have everything about her criticized simply because she was Austrian. Having never been required to think about money, and being lonely, it is easy to see how Marie Antoinette fell into such extravagant spending habits - especially when her husband didn’t stop her. It doesn’t make what Marie Antoinette did right, but it’s an explanation, and clearly what she was most guilty of was ignorance. Marie Antoinette’s undoubted spoiledness is also well illustrated without making her unlikable.

What I Disliked: Honestly, nothing.

Believability: Carolyn Meyer is an Author who does her research, and it shows. She also did a splendid job of filling in the blanks and presenting a believable explanation of what really went on at the French court and with Antoinette’s extravagances. It makes sense that she turned to luxury and parties to fill whatever hole leaving Austria created. It makes sense that the French people chose her as a scapegoat because she was Austrian, she did not follow every French social rule, she hadn’t produced an heir, and all in all had (in the eyes of an unhappy public) failed in every respect. It’s all believable, and all makes sense. In writing all of this, the Author doesn’t try to justify Marie Antoinette’s spending or how King Louis paid less attention to the people than he ought to have; she just presents a “this is probably what was really going on” scenario and leaves it at that.

Writing Style: It’s pleasing. The Author interjects a lot of French into the dialogue, but it’s used in a way that makes it easy to understand what it means. And sometimes the character repeats the sentence in English. It’s done very smoothly. When the story switches narrators, from Marie Antoinette to Marie-Therese, I thought I wouldn’t like it, but it, too, is done very smoothly, and there’s no confusion. I also liked how each chapter began with an etiquette "rule," which gave an indication of what would happen in the chapter.

Content: Marie Antoinette often wonders about what she’s supposed to do on her wedding night - she wants people to explain to her in full what will happen. And Marie’s inability to become pregnant quite often comes up. Louis visits her bedchamber quite often, and performs “the act.” Thankfully, no character enlightens Marie in detail about her bedchamber duties, and Louis’s visits are never detailed, either. The Author never goes beyond phrases like, “He made love to me,” or “He caressed me and we did it.” Still, this sort of thing is talked about quite a bit - Louis’s lack of pleasure in it and such, and it seems to me that the Author really didn’t need to mention every time that Louis slept with Marie.

Conclusion: Unsurprisingly, the book ends with Marie Antoinette dying. That’s why the Author switches narrators. The book does, however, still end on a somewhat hopeful note, though the Epilogue quickly crushes that when the Author explains what happened to Marie-Therese. If you don’t want to hear that dismal story, don’t read the Epilogue.

Recommended Audience: Because of the sexual hints, even if they are not in detail, I would recommend this to an older teen audience. Otherwise, parents will have their kids asking them uncomfortable questions. This is a girl-read, and historical fiction fans would like it a lot.

Others in the Young Royals Series:
1)Mary, Bloody Mary
2)Beware, Princess Elizabeth
3)Doomed Queen Anne
4)Patience, Princess Catherine
6)The Bad Queen
7)The Wild Queen

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