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Fascinating historical fiction
on 9 February 2012
I'm surprised Jeanne Kologridis is not more widely read as she really gives the likes of Philippa Gregory and Sarah Dunant a run for their money in the historical fiction stakes. I think this one will particularly appeal if you enjoyed PG's more recent novels about the Plantagenet dynasty which, as well as featuring strong female lead characters, also have a mystical element to them.
The Devil's Queen covers Catherine de Medici's rise from orphaned heir to a powerful but unpopular Florentine dynasty, to the position of the most powerful and respected woman in France, thanks to a judicious marriage and the combination of the feminine wiles and satanic arts which she's not above using to ease her path. She falls under the influence of her Rasputin-like astrologer/court magician Cosimo Ruggieri, and between them they call on some very dark powers as they conspire to ensure that Catherine and her children hold onto their positions in the hotbed of plotting and back-stabbing intrigue that is the French court of the mid-sixteenth century. At the same time Catherine is an astute politician and earns the respect (if not the love) of France's warring Protestant and Catholic factions.
It really was a case of every woman for herself when it came to securing the affection of the French King and his sons and it all makes for a very interesting and enthralling historical read which I enjoyed almost as much as The Borgia Bride (my favourite JK novel). I can also recommend her Painting Mona Lisa, and have The Burning Times still to read. I'm also very pleased to see from Amazon that she has a new (I think) book out in March, called The Scarlet Contessa.