Occasionally I will have a book in my TBR pile awaiting read and review and I will be granted access to the audio version of the same book. Most often I will do two separate reviews usually it’s a timing issue. I had previously read and reviewed this title, and the AudioBook gave me an opportunity to see if I may have missed or misjudged elements during my read.
While I really wanted to love this story: French Court intrigue at the time of The Affair of the Poisons, a notorious satanic influenced attempt on the future of the French Monarchy, as well as some of the dramatics and machinations of the court, all from the perspective of a handmaiden and trusted confidant of Athénaïs, Madame de Montspan also known as the Shadow Queen.
Unfortunately, the audio version of this story did not reveal any missing elements, the court intrigue was all tell and no show, with a curious brushing off of the complex and often entangled relationships that are working to cross purposes. Little information about Athénaïs was provided but the focus on Claudette des Oeillets did not provide much depth or emotionally tangible elements that would give a reader something to sink their teeth into. Sadly, as I have heard wonderful things about this author’s series on Josephine Bonaparte, but the misses in this story left far too many questions and did not engage me enough to care to seek more.
And that wholly saddens me, as a fan of the fictional accounts that are informed by actual history and events, I want to have some translation of the dry facts into an emotionally compelling read that provides questions and a backdrop to encourage more investigation. Details were rich and the visual references were lushly defined and described but the real meat of the story: the emotional reactions the tension and the court intrigue was all glossed over to be replaced with over-simplified explantions of why it was complex.
Narration in this story was provided by Meredith Mitchell and I will say that her uninspired delivery with odd pauses and over-emphasis that leaned to presentation more suited to a recitation in a somber church service did not aid the storys flow or appeal one bit. There is a curious balance that one must have with delivery to impart the importance of events without foreshadowing with tone and delivery one’s lack of connection to the text being presented. Unfortunately she missed on all counts for me, and I would be hesitant about selecting titles with her as narrator.
Stars: Overall 2 Narration 2 Story 2
Title: The Shadow Queen
Author: Sandra Gulland
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Narrator: Meredith Mitchell
Published by: Blackstone Audio
Source: AudioBook Jukebox
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 33 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ AllRomance
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.
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.
A copy of this title was provided via AudioBook Jukebox for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.