Thursday, April 22, 2010

Review: The Bad Queen

The Bad Queen
By Carolyn Meyer
Publication date: April 12, 2010
My rating: ****1/2

My review:

The Bad Queen is a fictionalized account of the life of  Marie Antoinette starting from her early teens in 1768 when her mother Empress Maria Theresa of Austria is trying to arrange an advantageous marriage for her to her doom during the French Revolution. The novel is written like a journal of her life from the perspective of Marie Antoinette herself and then later on from the point of view of her daughter. Each chapter begins with a rule that Marie Antoinette is supposed to follow for her success. Two of the rules that describe her situation perfectly: "You are born to obey, and you must learn to do so" and "All eyes are upon you-there can be no mistakes". 

I thought this novel would be incredibly sad reading because Marie Antoinette did have a tragic life but there is a surprising amount of humor and I loved the historical details about clothing and day to day life. One interesting tidbit involved all the rules of etiquette at the French Court and how she couldn't even reach for a cup of water. There was someone specific to hand it to her as well as a person specially chosen to hand her the different garments she is supposed to wear including her underwear. How mortifying! I was pulled into the story right away when the young Antonia finds out that she has to change her name to Antoine, learn French, and have her teeth straightened-a horrible process that made me thankful for the advances in dentistry since the 18th century! Marie Antoinette faced a lot of criticism from her mother and perfection was demanded of her from a very young age but she never believed that she could measure up. I really felt for her and liked her character throughout the book even when I shook my head at her bad decisions. Her husband Louis XVI is somewhat likeable too although he had some strange behavior and caused her a lot of sadness in the early years of their marriage. It is interesting to see what he was like as a young prince. He really wasn't cut out to be a king so I felt sorry for him that he had to inherit that responsibility. The final portion of the book is told through the eyes of Marie-Therese, a daughter of Marie Antoinette and I think it is the best way to describe the final period of her life. Marie-Therese witnesses a lot of heartache during the French Revolution and the historical notes at the back of the book reveal her fate.

Other major historical figures are also portrayed including King Louis XVI, his famous mistress comtesse Du Barry, and Count Axel Fersen, the Swedish man who is thought to have been Marie Antoinette's lover. The author here portrays their relationship as only stolen kisses, secret letters, and verbal declarations of love. We also get to meet members of the Austrian and French Court. Reading about these people made me want to look for an actual biography about Marie Antoinette and thankfully Carolyn Meyer lists some useful books that she used for her research while writing the novel.

The Bad Queen is one of the best historical fiction novels I've read this year. Carolyn Meyer presents the story of Marie Antoinette in a way that allows readers to empathize with her and understand her better. It may be a YA novel but adults who enjoy historical fiction would also find much to like. 


  1. Great review! The Bad Queen was a great read, I felt that part one introduced the reader to a little known side of Marie Antoinette.

  2. Sounds good. It's nice to know there is some humor in it.

  3. I really wanted to read this book before, but your review had made me want to go out and buy this book immediately. I LOVE historical fiction; this sounds like a great read. Thanks for the awesome review!

  4. I really like the cover of this book. I am always looking for interesting reads about Marie Antoinette.

  5. This sounds like a perfect read for me, I love ya historicals. Thanks for the wonderful review!


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