It’s 1660 and Claudette lives day to day, her impoverished family wandering the French countryside as part of a small acting troupe. As is common in these times, her father dies early, but after a lot of hard work, Claudette is able to witness her mother’s rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. She rubs elbows with some of the greatest playwrights of the time, but is still socially scorned and considered damned by the church. Either by luck or extreme coincidence, Claudette eventually finds herself in the graces of Athenais de Montespan, a mistress to Louis XIV with grand ambitions. Needing a trustworthy confidante, Athenais employs Claudette as her seamstress and personal attendant.
Enticed by the reputation a life among nobility could lend her, Claudette joins the royal throng only to find that the royal court is just as much a stage as the theater. As Athenais sets her sites ever higher, she becomes more and more desperate as well as a tad paranoid of anybody outside her immediate circle. Claudette finds herself tangled in the web of Athenais and begins to wonder if this is truly worth risking her life for.
I found The Shadow Queen part intriguing and part completely unbelievable. The side of the story in which nobility plotted and schemed is very much true to the times. Nobility was constantly trying to claw their way up in ranks, many young women trying to get into the bed of the king to be the one to bear his child and hope against hopes to lay claim to the throne. It was always about who you married and bearing legitimate heirs. Had it been me, I wouldn’t have trusted anyone with anything.
Claudette’s story of being in the theater and making their wages off entertaining the various royal families also rings true. I don’t doubt that the church was against theater and acting troupes as that lot has always been a stuffy bunch. Theater was a tough way to survive and I’m sure most of the troupes were nomadic, barely scraping by most of the time.
What I didn’t quite understand is why Claudette seemed to have a borderline physical attraction to Athenais any time they met by chance. I don’t oppose the relationship but it simply didn’t make very much sense to me. I also don’t understand why Athenais would choose Claudette to be her confidante. Most ladies in waiting were essentially sold into it by their parents as a way to mingle and find a high ranking husband. It doesn’t make sense for Claudette to be chosen let along be allowed into the high courts. Overall, I did enjoy reading The Shadow Queen. It was well written and it kept me turning pages. Unless I’m really missing something here, I just wish it had stayed a little truer to the actual historical events than it did.
Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, 2 sons, 2 dogs and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She is a full time mom and enjoys writing short stories in her spare time. She also likes watching anime, reading books, and playing video games.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Doubleday. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.