May 04, 09
Read in January, 1996
My favorite of Judith Merkle Riley's books. I read this in junior high, and managed to severely unsettle a number of teachers with my in-depth knowledge of poisons and their effects. This novel introduces us to the dark side of the Sun King's court, a world rife with backstabbing, social-climbing, Satanism, and magic. Our guide is a young girl with a gift for seeing the future, abandoned by her family and re-made into a society fortune-teller. Her mentor is La Voisin, an amused and amusing woman who runs Paris's underground trade in poisons, abortions, and black magic. Riley puts a humorous twist on this grim subject matter, and keeps us laughing throughout. The heroine is appealing and intelligent, the hero is adorable, La Voisin is irresistably likeable despite her amorality, and a number of smaller characters - like the housemaid possessed by a snobbish demon - steal the show. A must for any lover of historical fiction.