From the books I have read about Catherine De Medici, she’s known to be a very cunning evil witch who snaked her way to the French Crown. If you’ve read The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll, she’s not the most nicest person you’ve ever read. So when I picked up this book, I wanted to know what was it that really made her this way. I was in for a big surprise.
The Devil’s Queen feature the life of Catherine De Medici, from the time of her incarcerations, to her betrothal to the Dauphin of France, then to her reign as Queen. It adds mysticism and astrology into the plot, as Catherine is desperate to have children (and adds to the speculation if she was a witch or just fascinated with astrology). It also features the infamous St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and the possible parties responsible for it.
I was surprised reading this book. It shed a very different light on Catherine De Medici. She wasn’t the cunning sly witch I was so used to reading. In fact, it was the opposite. The book put her as a young girl, who married and had a husband who was in love with someone else and everyone in the French court knew it. She couldn’t have children which put tremendous pressure on her. This is where she meddles with magic and “witchcraft” to help her. This book definitely put Catherine in a very sympathetic light and I thought it was an interesting read.
I actually felt myself drawn to Catherine and felt for her during her hard times – especially during her marriage and her desperation to have children. She didn’t seem like the evil Queen we all know her as. Eventually when she did have children, she seemed like a very devoted mother, and despite her rocky marriage, she was also very devoted to her husband (even though he wasn’t). The plot is told entirely in Catherine’s point of view, which is interesting and it highlights her intelligence and her willingness to learn politics even though women didn’t have a place for it. I admire her strong will and determination to hold her position in court, even though she’s been shadowed by Diane de Poitiers. Her relationship with Diane is a strange one, it went from enemies to a silent agreement and respect for one another. The references to magic and astrology is the main theme in the book and it shows Catherine’s hobby turn into something more serious that had a great impact on her life and for those around her. I thought that was an interesting addition
The plot was well done and well written. The events that turned to the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre was interesting as many people were blamed (Including Catherine) for it. I liked how Catherine, eventually found out that turning things to her advantage and by avoiding events that are meant to be has serious consequences, and things still don’t turn out the way she wanted it to be, she accepted it, in the end, and it just seemed that it had made her a better person and free from all the pressure, and the worries that were heaped onto her during the book. When she found out about Edouard’s involvement in the Massacre, perhaps that was her breaking point. I was personally shocked about it and I could feel Catherine’s emotions. It certainly did feel like a slap in the face.
I felt the ending did drag out and could have been faster paced. It seemed to drag and slow to a snail’s crawl and extremely redundant. Also, there are certain parts of the book where an execution is involved (a rather gruesome one) and a hunt gone wrong. This may not please those that are squeamish.
Overall an interesting view on one of history’s most vilified Queens. Certainly sympathetic and very different from what we are all used to seeing in Catherine De Medici. I recommend this to historical fiction fans. It was a great read.
I give it an 8 out of 10.