Review

The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine De Medici

by Jeanne Kalogridis

Jeanne Kalogridis is a bestselling author of historical fiction, science fiction and horror. Her published works include numerous novels and movie novelizations, a prequel trilogy to Bram Stoker's DRACULA, and many of the Star Trek stories and movies that people have come to know and love. In her newest historical fiction release, THE DEVIL'S QUEEN, Kalogridis once again proves herself to be an accomplished writer who knows how to keep readers enthralled.

THE DEVIL'S QUEEN is the story of Catherine de Medici: daughter to the ruler of the Florentine Republic, heiress at birth to the Medici fortune, Queen of France for over a decade, and mother to the last three Valois kings. An intellectual and a schemer, Catherine was naturally suited to rule and became a highly adept governor. Yet her tendency was always to protect her family and their power, and Catherine was not afraid to act against any potential threats. Queen Catherine has been named one of the most brutal rulers in French history and an instigator of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572, in which tens of thousands were slaughtered in a single day.

Catherine's life was not an easy one. It was said that her stars were marred before she was born, as she would spend many long years tormented. After being imprisoned for three years by rebel insurgents, Catherine was wed at the tender age of 14 to Henry, Duke of Orleans, later King Henry II. Theirs was an arranged marriage, designed to unify Italy and France. Henry greatly resented the marriage and had already given his heart to the stunning and devious Diane de Poitiers. Even while Catherine was overlooked and spurned by Henry, her love for him was unwavering and blinding. She lived in torment from his betrayals, yet would welcome any advances he gave.

With the death of Henry's brother, Francois, Catherine found her marriage at risk of annulment, unable to produce the heirs who would secure her status. She began to despair and was determined to stop at nothing to get Henry's love and produce his heirs. So it was that she enlisted the help of a strange astrologer, Cosimo Ruggieri, and made a terrible decision that would later haunt her: to change their fates using the occult. The two of them committed unspeakable acts, "all for love." Catherine then bore Henry many children, but his illicit relationships didn't stop. Their destinies had been altered, but only for a time, and fate proved inescapable in the end. Henry was murdered, suffering terribly, and tragedy would strike again and again.

The Valois reign was a troubled time. It was the age of the French Wars of Religion, when French Protestants (Huguenots) were gaining greater power and prestige but the atmosphere was still intolerant of them, and violently so. The dominant Roman Catholics condemned them, and war threatened to engulf France. Catherine was no stranger to war, having survived capture and imprisonment by rebel insurgents as a child, but the conflict brewing across France had become more violent than any she had experienced before and would raise fears of an impending coup d'etat.

THE DEVIL'S QUEEN puts a human face on one of the most notorious rulers of France. The story of Catherine de Medici and her role in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre is one of the more captivating tales in history. Readers will really appreciate the wonderfully descriptive quality of Kalogridis's writing, the novel diving right into the political maneuvering of the royals and the lavish excess of the French court. Elements of superstition and the arcane add intrigue and fascination, as do the disturbing social customs of the era. The history here is authentic, and the main characters and plot points are genuine. The book proves exceptionally interesting and is a largely accurate portrayal of Catherine de Medici and her role in the massacre. 

Reviewed by Melanie Smith (melanies@daywesthealthcare.com) on December 29, 2010

The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine De Medici
by Jeanne Kalogridis

  • Publication Date: July 21, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 0312368437
  • ISBN-13: 9780312368432