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The Shadow Queen

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  1,871 ratings  ·  257 reviews
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.

1660, Paris

Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set. From an impov
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  1,871 ratings  ·  257 reviews

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``Laurie Henderson
"The Shadow Queen" is the 2nd book by Gulland set in the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV which relates the tale of Athenais de Montespan his 2nd official mistress.

Louis's first love, Louise de la Valliere, became ill with what is now suspected to be Multiple Sclerosis which caused Louis's eyes to began to wander. Athenais, lady in waiting to Louise and one of her best friends didn't hesitate to steal Louis away from her, breaking Louise's heart.

Athenais turns out to be a grasping, greedy, hor
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

The Shadow Queen marks my first experience with author Sandra Gulland and I'm kind of bummed to report it didn't exactly pan out the way I'd hoped it would. While not particularly bad, it wasn't all that good and left me at a bit of a loss.

I think a lot of the hype surrounding this title is connected to Athénaïs de Montespan as the jacket description gives her character significant prominence. Thing is, The Shadow Queen isn
Diane S ☔
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
3.5 The title refers to Athenais de Montespan, who for many years was said to have the power of a queen as the long term mistress of Louis XIV. It has been many years since I have read anything about the "Sun KIng, and I don't remember ever reading about laude des Pellets, who for a time was Athenais's servant and confidant.

This is actually her story, starting in the theater with her performing parents. I loved reading about the early days of the theater, the theater wars and the famous playwrig
Nov 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this... think the title is a little misleading because the story is actually about a girl who is a theater player getting caught in the 'web' of the 'shadow queen'!!! Better title would've been The Shadow Queen's Player... but regardless, it was fantastic!!! Highly recommend!!!
Alex Andrasik
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
A novel of 17th-century France, set in the time of the Sun King, and fraught with religious conflict, widespread war, and a dizzying parade of innovation--and intrigue--in the world of theatre. It's the age of the Great Corneille and the upstarts Moliere and Racine, and from the halls of a new palace outside Paris--Versailles--the king's mistress spins her webs, aided by her good-hearted ex-actress confidante, Claudette. Sounds like it would make for a good read, eh?

No, just no.

It's a frustratin
Ann Mah
Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As an ardent Francophile, I loved this story about Claude des Oeillets, actress, daughter, maid, and pawn in the court of the Sun King. The theater scenes were particularly fascinating. A rich and satisfying read.
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Those following the popular trend of “royal mistress” novels will find The Shadow Queen, the newest member of this growing category, strikingly different fare.

In her previous excursions into French history, Sandra Gulland had chronicled the stories of two court outsiders – Empress Josephine and Louise de la Vallière – who never expected to capture a monarch’s heart. Her fifth book depicts an even more unlikely entrant to exalted royal circles: Claude des Oeillets, nicknamed Claudette, a tall, at
Holly Weiss
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-release
I loved this book. It was gripping, informative and well constructed. It is told through the fascinating perspective of Claudette, attendant and confidant of The Sun King’s mistress. It seductively intertwines the conflict between the theater, royalty and the Catholic Church, the lure of wealth, and the “illusion” of power.

Sandra Gulland is an established writer with a following of her internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy. Set against the gilded opulence of a newly constructed Versai
Mar 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Thank you to Netgalley and Doubleday for allowing me a copy to review.

I will admit that I don’t know much about France in the 17th century, so I was thrilled to get a copy of this novel.

Yes, I thought that I was going to be reading about this “Shadow Queen”, but the truth is that the story was centered around her attendant, Claudette des Oeillets. Did this matter to me? Not at all. I found that the life of Claudette was so interesting that I forgot the title of the book right away.

Claudette was
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: french-history
The Shadow Queen delivered much more than I expected. Full of intrigue, scandal and secrets - religious cults and fantastic plays. The tale of Claudette begins as a poor player and spans many levels fame. From helping her mother become a famous actress to being the confidante of The Shadow Queen - with much in between.
Althea Ann
Feb 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Highly recommended for anyone interested in the world of 17th-century French theater.
The title of the book is a little inaccurate - while the novel certainly features the woman who was known as 'The Shadow Queen,' Athénaïs, Madame de Montspan, the main character is the woman who came to be her companion, Claude des Oeillets.
We follow Claude from dire poverty, as the daughter of a family of travelling players, to reasonable success in the theater world. Through a series of coincidental meetings
Toni Osborne
May 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Paris 1660 during the reign of the Sun King

This historical fiction set against the gilded opulence of Versailles is essentially the story of two persons: the main character being Claude des Oeilletes also named Claudette, an impoverished young woman and of Athénaïs, Madame Montespan, member of the high society and mistress to Louis XIV. “Shadow Queen” tells the relationship between these two women who are both close in age.

As part of the theatrical world Claudette lives in the shadows of societ
Caroline Wilson
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very enjoyable look at 17th century France during the reign of Louis XIV. while not a sequel to Gulland's "Mistress of the Sun", familiar characters make appearances in "The Shadow Queen".
The heroine Claude des Oeilettes is plucky and resourceful; despite the fact she continually sacrifices her own wants and desires to ensure the well being of her loved ones, she never becomes overly saintly.
Gulland really excels at painting Athenais de Montespan. Spoiled rotten and at times ruthless, she has
Jo Dervan
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The title refers to Athenais de Montespan, the mistress of the French King, Louis XiV but the book is really about the life of Claudette des Oeillets,the personal maid of Athenais. Claudette was the daughter of 2 actors and lived a very poor life until she is hired by Athenais to become that lady's personal maid. Athenais, a beautiful but tempestuous woman, married a nobleman and became a marquise. After the marquis is exiled, Ahtenais remains at court and becomes the king's mistress and mother ...more
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Shadow Queen

Would you sacrifice your childhood and your entire life for your family? Would you live in the shadow of others because you are not worthy of a title, respect or dignity? Living in the 17th century and working alongside her parents, hoping to earn enough money to eat, 14 year old Claudette des Oeillets endures the life of a juggler, bit player, tumbler, seamstress and assistant to a powerful woman. Her family lives from hand to mouth and hopes to get parts in different plays in orde
Kyle Wendy Skultety (
This review originally appeared on my blog at

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.

1660, Paris

Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set. From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with h
Jul 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'm of two minds about this novel. On the one side I found it to be an easy read, with short chapters that could be quickly delved into at a moment's whim. It had an enjoyable enough storyline to keep me turning the pages.
However, the story lacked depth in both plot and character development. I felt no connection with any of the characters and even the protagonist's plight did not move me. It was as if I was watching everything from a great distance rather than feeling part of the action itself.
May 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Yeah, I'm officially bored. The synopsis grabbed my attention and I was curious to enter the world of intrigue ind mystery behind "the shadow queen," but I just COULDN'T make it past 22%. Sometimes I go though phases in my reading patterns where I am very tolerant of slow beginnings and a plot-hole here and there, but this time I just was NOT having it. The book is corny and moves fast in the weirdest places, yet it moves soooooooo sloooooooow when it comes to the main point of the book....THE S ...more
Jenny Poole
Jun 05, 2014 rated it did not like it
Marked it as read, but I could't read it. The writing style was horrible.
Elspeth G. Perkin
Take a taste of French history with The Shadow Queen

It's all in the details, and unfortunately The Shadow Queen failed at this execution for this reviewer. I was searching for a delectable feast of history and all I found was a bland spoonful. The Shadow Queen enticed this reader with a truly distinctive narrator and a journey from obscurity in the grime infested streets of Paris to a confidant in the glittering halls of the palace of the Sun King but unfortunately it ended with a somber sigh. I
Sep 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I was so looking forward to the time period of the Sun King and just couldn’t get more disappointed.

The problem is the progression of the story.

It starts with a young Claudette and her family wandering the French countryside as acting troupe and searching for a town to display their talents. By the time they arrive in Paris, you’d think the story would show some clear direction. But it still is going somewhere and can’t get there. A lot of pages are dedicated to a show and what it evolves to mak
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was ok

WARNING: the main character is forced to have sex in order to keep her job.

The story covers three decades, following Claudette from her teens to her early 40's, with a LOT of time skips. This leaves you wondering if you've missed something as years can go by in a paragraph.

The book is making heavy use of the theme that the world of the theater and the world of Versailles had a lot in common, but trying to cover both leaves things stretched thin as we follow Claudette as she runs back and forth f
Carole Rae
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was drawn in by the cover and by the summary. After watching that show about Versailles and the Sun King, I was extra interested in this. It sat for a while on my shelf. Finally got around to reading this.

The story follows Claudette who is the daughter of a famous actress. She becomes the assistant of Athenais who is the famous mistress of the Sun King. She "reigned" France alongside with the King which is abnormal but she was one of those people that shine and have a way about them that draw
One of those average novels. I do like reading historical fiction, but sometimes, especially nowadays, it is so mainstream and so average that the reading pleasure of historical ambiance is permanently lost. This is one of those. It actually had a much stronger beginning, but unfortunately the middle part never picked up and then it turned into a middle-of-the road final part, although the epilogue was quite decent and not too saccharine.

I guess it kept my mind occupied during the challenging t
Jun 30, 2020 rated it liked it
king Louis XIV wives and mistresses, as well as theatre in France. Not quite as intriguing as the Josephine B. Trilogy.
May 05, 2014 rated it liked it

When Claudette des Oeillets first meets the young girl Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, who will in future be known as Athenais de Montespan, it is a chance encounter. After all Claudette is from a poor travelling theatre family, trying their best to get by in 17th century France and Athenais is the girl who in due course will become 'The Shadow Queen', mistress to Louis XIV of France.

Claudette is forced to grow up quickly, taking responsibility for her mother who barely seems to be able t
May 16, 2014 rated it liked it
I liked Gulland's trilogy about Josephine. I liked her style of writing, which manages to blend the more prosaic historical facts with just the right dose of emotion and poetic expression without becoming too soapy. Her new book, The Shadow Queen, is based on the true life stories of two very different women, from very different social backgrounds, and with different worldviews.

I won't summarize the plot here. I enjoyed the first part of the book and especially the "War of the theaters." I love
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Sandra Gulland is a new author to me and I am grateful to be part of this tour. One of the hazards of discovering a new-to-me author is that it causes my tbr pile to multiply, that is precisely what has happened here.

I adored The Shadow Queen right from the first page. Since most of my HF reads usually takes place with the English court this was a nice change.

Focusing on a real historical figure, Claudette, it wasn't hard to sympathize with her. I found her to be very likeable and her story felt
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've read the Josephine trilogy, and loved it, so I jumped at the chance to read The Shadow Queen, and I wasn't the least bit disappointed. This was one I read in a day. I couldn't put it down, and I didn't notice the hours going by. I was completely immersed in the story.

I can't speak to the accuracy of the history, having not studied this time period, but what I do know is that Ms. Gulland's writing pulled me right in, and I felt like I was there, in the theatre, in the bedchamber…everywhere.
Apr 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
I have officially given up on this book. My point came last night. One - I have never read a dueling scene as idiotic and terrible as the one in this book. It was inane, and poorly described, I could not figure out what the hell was going on. Two - the parenthesis were driving me nuts!!!!! One page I was on had one set, flip to the next page, 2 sets (and this is not counting the multiple sets on previous pages). Three - ZOUNDS! was driving my bonkers. If I read that one more time, I would've scr ...more
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I'm the author of the JOSEPHINE B. TRILOGY, the internationally best-selling novels based on the life of Josephine Bonaparte, Napoleon's wife. The Trilogy has been published in 17 countries.

The Trilogy was followed by MISTRESS OF THE SUN and then THE SHADOW QUEEN, a "sister" novel. Both novels are set in the Court of Louis XIV, the Sun King.

THE GAME OF HOPE, a Young Adult novel about Josephine B

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