NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Wednesday, July 29, 2009


by Jeanne Kalogridis

"Born into one of Florence’s most powerful families, Catherine was soon left a fabulously rich heiress by the early deaths of her parents. Violent conflict rent the city state and she found herself imprisoned and threatened by her family’s enemies before finally being released and married off to the handsome Prince Henry of France.

Overshadowed by her husband’s mistress, the gorgeous, conniving Diane de Poitiers, and unable to bear children, Catherine resorted to the dark arts of sorcery to win Henry’s love and enhance her fertility—for which she would pay a price. Against the lavish and decadent backdrop of the French court, and Catherine’s blood-soaked visions of the future, Kalogridis reveals the great love and desire Catherine bore for her husband, Henry, and her stark determination to keep her sons on the throne
." (from Macmillan's site)

I thought Jeanne Kalogridis was going to let me down. 150 or so pages into The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine de Medici, I was becoming bored. Things weren't moving along at the pace I've come to expect from her. I wasn't captivated by any creepy weirdness. Then: Wham! I couldn't put it down. This was the Kalogridis I have come to know and love! Somehow she manages to make the infamous Catherine de Medici a sympathetic character while in the middle of participating in a human sacrifice! Unreal. And pretty gruesome.

Yeah, The Devil's Queen has a couple graphic scenes that the more squeamish among us may want to bypass (execution by quartering, anyone?), but once you get invested in this book it really is awesome and well worth peeking between your fingers once the icky parts are over. This book has me champing at the bit to learn more about Catherine and her rotten children. (Well, not all of them are rotten, but if I tell you which ones, I'll wreck the story for you!) It will be interesting to see how I react to her in other books considering how she was portrayed here. The very first book I ever read about Henry VIII was The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George. With all of Henry's rationalizing about all the hideous things he did, I found myself actually feeling a little sorry for him. The guy was a psychological mess! Because of this, it took me along time to get that sympathy out of my head every time a read another story about him and his wives. In fact, I still find myself making excuses for him every now and then! I wonder if I'll do the same thing with Catherine de Medici now.

I have Jean Plaidy's Medici trilogy on my desk. Do we think I can stick to my personal pledge to finish the Countdown Challenge before I read it? Bets are being taken now . . .

PS If you go to the publisher's site, there is a link to a Reading Group Guide PDF, and check this out . . . (You'll have to click on it to see the ebook in full)

Other reviews:

A Girl Walks Into A Bookstore
Tanzanite's Shelf and Stuff


Jo-Jo said...

Oooohhh, this sounds really good! Thanks for the review Lezlie.

Darlene said...

Ooooh, I think this one is definitely going on the wishlist. I love George's book and Henry VIII's life and his wives are the stories that fascinate me the most still.

Meghan said...

I haven't read anything by Kalogridis yet, but she has definitely been on my radar for a while. This book looks great, but I'll probably wait for the paperback.

Marg said...

I loved The Borgia Bride, and definitely will be reading this one too!

Lezlie said...

Jo-Jo ~ It *is* really good! I hope you have a chance to read it.

Dar ~ I've gotten a little burned out on the Tudors, so it's fun to find other screwed up royals to read about. :-)

Meghan ~ Try I, Mona Lisa, if you can find that one around. It's really good, too! And keep an eye out here, I haven't ruled out a giveaway for The Devil's Queen yet . . .

Marg ~ If you loved The Borgia Bride, this one will be right up your alley for sure!


Booklogged said...

I just got this from the library today. Glad to hear your enthusiastic comments about it. I will keep reading like you suggest.

Lezlie said...

Booklogged ~ Definitely give it more that the "50 page" test. Honestly, I think I was nearly half-way through before I felt like it totally redeemed itself. It was worth the extra push, and I hope you'll feel the same!


BurtonReview said...

I've just gotten this and I so wish that I hadn't so many reviews to do.
I also wanted to let your readers know that there is an old copy "The Medici Queen" an older issue of the same book which they can find cheap on used book sites =)
Thank you for your review!

Lezlie said...

Marie ~ Are you certain it's the same book? The author just wrote this and finished the final editing I believe last fall. "The Medici Queen" was going to be the title, but they finally ended up going with "The Devil's Queen" and pushing the publication date out when they decided to go hardcover due to great initial advance reviews. Where did you see older used copies? Inquiring minds want to know! :-)


Serena said...

I'm glad that this author didn't disappoint you.

Lezlie said...

Serena ~ Me, too! I'm counting on her as my go-to author for dark and creepy. :-)


Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I have to admit that Catherine (and the whole Medici dynasty) fascinates me.

CW Gortner, author of THE LAST QUEEN, is working on a book about Catherine - I think it will be out next year. That might be another one to read so you can compare perspectives.

Lezlie said...

Heather ~ That one is on my radar. It will be great to compare Plaidy, Kalogridis and Gortner from the fictional perspective. I'd like to read a nonfiction book about her also.


wisteria said...

I know what you mean about the M. George book. I still find my sympathy for him at times. I know he was a horrible ruthless king....but the romance of the literary world has so tainted the true picture. I think I need to read this book. Sounds totally gruesome...but oh well.
I do have my dogs!!

Lezlie said...

Wisteria ~ M. George really forced you to see things from his point of view and how he was being manipulated. I thought the book was a masterpiece and is still my favorite by her. If you can handle the couple of parts I mentioned here in The Devil's Queen, the rest should be no problem. :-) I little doggie loves always helps!


Serena said...

Now, I really am interested in reading this...I love dark and creepy authors.

Lezlie said...

Serena ~ She is one of my favs when it comes to that. She has an old vampire series I have sitting around that I never read. I may need to dig that out!


Allie ~ Hist-Fic Chick said...

Lezlie, now that I've read your review I think you and my friend (my girl Lizzy from Historically Obsessed was the source I had mentioned:)) were both actually on the same page with this one. She said that the beginning was boring so that's why she put it down. Maybe if she had kept reading just a bit further, she would have gotten a taste of Kalogridis's gory/page-turner side. I've read two of her other books (which I think I mentioned in our convo) The Borgia Bride and I, Mona Lisa and I really enjoyed them both. Both of those were totally action-packed (although The Borgia Bride did make me cringe in horror at some of the incestuous elements!), and I could not put either one of them down. Her books all seem to utilize some of the eerie aspects of history...such as execution by quartering, incest, impalement, etc, etc. but somehow, despite these factors, I keep coming back for more --I don't know what that quite says about me (that I'm a big creep? LOL!), but her books always seem to get me hooked. I'll give this one a try. Thanks :)

Lezlie said...

Allie ~ Yeah, Kalogridis does not remotely shy away from the incest rumors in The Borgia Bride. It's her "creepy weirdness" that keeps me coming back, too, so whatever that says about you applies to me also. :-) Have you read Clare Clark's The Nature of Monsters? That one is really disturbing. You might like it! :-)