My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Readers will get what they expect from this book. It’s a creepy twist on France’s most famous royal family’s downfall. Most who choose the book will know the basic history of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s bloody end. The story’s twist includes a conspiracy, a ghost, several secret passages, and lots of death. The fiction added to the story smacks of just enough history to make it plausible if not probable.
While the writing is not astounding, Alender does a skillful job with Colette’s character. She is gratingly shallow and selfish at the beginning of the book – so much so that I wanted to slap her several times. Even more maddening is that she knows that much of what her friends do and say and how she responds is not nice or appropriate, but she lets peer pressure get the better of her. Her friend Hannah is even worse and the entire clique made me wonder if this isn’t one of the best (worst?) representations of spoiled, rich, private-schooled Americans in print today.
Alender’s skill comes in moving Colette to embrace her better instincts and take stock of what is really important. Through the course of the book, the reader sees Colette’s behavior mirror that of what has been attributed to Marie Antoinette. Colette begins as a self-centered, spoiled teen and struggles with what every teen struggles: popularity vs. integrity vs. compassion. Colette eventually has an awakening that perhaps the French revolutionaries were hoping would strike Marie Antoinette. Colette leaves France and her experiences with a better understanding of history and what it is to be human, humble, and happy.