Orsolya's Reviews > The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine de Medici

The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis
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's review
Feb 11, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, queens, mistresses-royalty, catherine-de-medici, library
Read from June 21 to 26, 2014

The life of Catherine de Medici was anything but ordinary. Luckily for us, this drama makes for solid historical fiction novels. Jeanne Kalogridis focuses on this remarkable woman beginning with her childhood in, “The Devil’s Queen”.

The pages of “The Devil’s Queen” instantly draw the reader in with an onslaught of exciting and dramatic events; resulting in a fast pace and compelling plot. The problem with this instant bombardment of events is that there are many characters featured without proper introductions (and no genealogical table) which will confuse those readers unfamiliar with the time period and figures involved.

Another issue with all of the constant-revolving events is that the novel is told in first-person narrative and Catherine is not always at the frontlines of the action. Therefore, she always happens to be at the right place at the right time to overhear prime information, or is eavesdropping, walks into conversations, etc. This is distracting and also quite unbelievable concerning how the reality would have naturally occurred.

On the other hand, Kalogridis presents a layered look at Catherine’s life with vivid visuals instead of focusing on historical fluff. Yes, there are liberties taken but overall the novel is a rich insight into the history versus the fiction, making “The Devil’s Queen” a very strong novel. A warning though: one of the central themes which Kalogridis over exaggerates for shock value is one of magick and the occult which isn’t appealing to all readers.

“The Devil’s Queen” features broken chunks of missing time in Catherine’s chronological life plus in her character development. She jumps in maturity from one chapter to the next but her growth, psyche, and inner feelings aren’t explored. A large number of major events occur but her possible reactions aren’t revealed. Although I like objective historical stances in HF novels; it felt like Kalogridis didn’t always understand her own character.

Surprisingly, “The Devil’s Queen” is not overly predictable or with too much foreshadowing. In fact, the novel is actually quite a page-turner begging the reader to find out what happens next. It is simply a very gripping novel.

Although not for everyone; heavy descriptive detail pleases me. However, Kalogridis sometimes expedites too much of it slowing the story in such a manner that perhaps her plot was stalled and she instead decided to offer setting details. It can’t be said that the story isn’t illustrative, though.

As “The Devil’s Queen” progresses, Kalogridis gives more thought to the occult theme. Although this interferes with the genuine history; it also shows Catherine as a multi-dimensional character which is in accordance with her true self. Kalogridis does well in making her ‘real’ processing both positive and negative traits instead of slipping too far in either one direction. Accompanying these historical liberties are some inaccuracies (for example: calling Mary Tudor “Bloody Mary” when she wasn’t called this until after her reign). These are relatively minor, however, and aren’t too taxing on the enjoyment of the novel.

The final quarter of “The Devil’s Queen” is noticeably poorly executed. There is a dragged-out buildup to a future climax which is painfully slow and very boring in comparison to Kalogridis’s style until this point. The reader will want to yell, “Get on with it!” Despite this slower pace, readers will understand the events leading to the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre with more clarity. However, the conclusion is very anti-climatic and the ending is weak (and even slightly fluffy). Kalogridis does include a brief Author’s Note in order to set some facts straight. I stress “brief”, so don’t expect much detail.

Even though “The Devil’s Queen” has some flaws; it is readable, exciting, and heavy on the history. Kalogridis emphasizes politics more so than the lusty love lives of royalty which is a relief. The novel is much better than many of the HF novels currently available and is a suitable source on Catherine de Medici. “The Devil’s Queen” is recommended for all interested in Catherine and in this time period.
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Reading Progress

06/21/2014 marked as: currently-reading
06/21/2014 page 124
26.0% "Not perfect but quite action-packed and definitely a page-turner."
06/23/2014 page 221
47.0% "King Francis was such a male-whore (and yet disapproved of females who were promiscuous)." 4 comments
06/27/2014 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Lyn (Readinghearts) I have a couple of Jeanne's books and really enjoy them.

Orsolya This was the first I have read from the author. I ALWAYS run into her other books but this is the only topic that interested me.

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