Heather's Reviews > Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV

Before Versailles by Karleen Koen
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Jul 13, 11

bookshelves: 17th-c, arc, france, historical-fiction, louis-xiv
Read from June 19 to July 02, 2011 — I own a copy

Prior to reading this novel I had no idea that this book was about the king who would be known as The Sun King – and to that end, I didn’t know anything about that man either! I had no idea what story I was walking in to, but I loved Dark Angels by Karleen Koen so I did not hesitate to jump on this one! The author made it easy for me to connect into this world because there were frequent references to King Charles II of England (the brother of one of the main characters) who I have read a lot about and always enjoy. This world of Louis XIV is just as interesting as the court of Charles II! All of the intrigue and romance and craziness!

The book started off a little slow for me and I think part of this was due to the frequent pauses to explain things that I didn’t feel needed to be elaborated on. For example:

“And our little French dauphin” – the first son of the king was called the dauphin because three hundred years earlier a king of France had purchased huge territories that carried a hereditary title, taken from the dolphin on the coat of arms – “is going to teach you French” (pg. 32 of ARC).

In the above scenario, while the information was interesting, it added nothing to the story and really broke up the flow. This stylistic feature appeared to die out after the first quarter or so of the book and the narrative really picked up from there. A stylistic choice that I didn’t mind as much but still felt was a little unnecessary, was the occasional reference of things that would happen in the future, beyond the scope of the book:

“He couldn’t yet know the difference ten years would make, even five, couldn’t yet know the temptations that would be thrown at him...He could not know that one day this girl, turned to woman, would weep before him, and he wouldn’t feel a thing. But such was years away…” (pg 349 of ARC).

While some of the writing style bothered me, I felt that the content of the story was wonderful. There was a large cast of characters but they were all well developed. Even the periphery characters were developed enough that you had a solid feeling about who they were and substantiated their motives. I also loved that there was a great character list at the beginning of the book because I certainly needed it from time to time – especially given my unfamiliarity with the French court. Koen also brings the mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask into play – and creates/supports a very believable scenario of who he may have been. Even this unknown character was well developed. I particularly enjoyed this plot line.

I very much enjoyed this book and can’t wait to get the chance to read her other works that are on my shelf. The author has stated that Dark Angels is a sequel to Before Versailles and knowing this, I was hoping to see Alice (main character in Dark Angels) pop into the novel before its end, as she was part of Madame’s household. But alas, this was not to be – that would have made the ending more perfect for me.

This book was received for review from the publisher - I was not compensated for my opinions and the above is my honest review.
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06/20/2011 page 59
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06/24/2011 page 102
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