The Devil’s Queen: A Novel of Catherine de Medici
By Jeanne Kalogridis
St. Martin’s Press
Catherine de Medici was born into Florence’s most powerful family, the de Medicis. An heiress to a family fortune, she learned at an early age that life would be one fight after another. When she is nine years old, her family faces a revolt and she stands with her aunt against the family’s enemies. She soon finds herself imprisoned in a convent. Suffering but still strong, she is rescued by a French cousin and taken to a more friendly convent but her peace doesn’t last long. Once again, enemies of the de Medicis manage to imprison her and threaten her life. When her imprisonment finally comes to an end, she finds herself married off to a French Prince by her uncle Pope Clement.
At 14, she finds married life no easier. While the French King Francois likes her very much, her husband Henry is less enthralled. He does seem to have a genuine regard for her but there is no love at first. Henry takes a mistress and Catherine goes childless for many years knowing that her life in France is tenuous without an heir. Always the student of mathematics and astrology, she turns to a trusted adviser for help. She buys the lives of her children with blood and dark magic and finds the flimsy hold she has on happiness pulled very thin. With the death of her husband, her life becomes one fight after another to keep her promise to her husband — to keep the throne of France in Valois hands.
Catherine’s interest in the occult brings a mystical quality to the story. She very much wants to protect her family and those she loves so much so that she is willing to go to great lengths to buy their doomed happiness. Disgusted by what she has to do, she does feel some remorse but it doesn’t stop her. You see how badly she wants to please others and to be happy but it’s not in her stars, literally. She makes a lot of bad choices along the way but still believes she is only doing what is right for her family.
I enjoyed this book a lot. While I’m not sure if I liked Catherine or not by the end of the book, I do know that every small turn in her life was interesting. I wanted to see how she would handle the next hurdle and what magic she would turn to. I also felt sorry for her. She wanted so badly to be happy and to make those around her happy but her attempts only brought on more hurt. It was a sad life but it made for a good read.
Kalogridis has a way of bringing characters life. The clothing, palaces, and events were done so well that you can imagine each and every detail. It’s historical fiction the way I like it.