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Jul 20, 2009

Book Review: "Twilight of A Queen" by Susan Carroll~Giveaway

Twilight of A Queen By Susan Carroll"Twilight of a Queen" A Novel written by Susan Carroll
Category: Fiction; Fiction - Historical; Fiction - Romance - Historical
Format: Trade Paperback, 480 pages
On Sale: July 21, 2009
Price: $15.00
ISBN: 978-0-449-22109-9 (0-449-22109-1)
The Burton Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Fifth in "The Dark Queen" Series (aka The Cheney Sisters of Faire Isle): The Huntress, The Silver Rose, The Courtesan, and The Dark Queen
"As war and treachery loom, an ambitious man’s mission threatens to topple two dazzling realms and their formidable rulers: Catherine de Medici, the Dark Queen, and Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle. It is 1588, and as the Spanish Armada prepares to besiege England, Paris balances on the brink of revolution. To maintain her grip on the throne and on the dark magic that has become her obsession, Catherine de Medici turns to Louis Xavier, a ruthless corsair who was schooled in the dark arts and has mastered piracy along the Spanish main. But Louis’s basest instincts are held in check by the kindness of Lady Jane Danvers, a British exile whose innate sense of honor is but one facet of her complex and passionate nature.

On Faire Isle, Ariane Cheney, unaware of the escalating threat from the Dark Queen, struggles with the task of protecting the daughters of the earth and their vast store of ancient magical wisdom. Weak and desperate for an advantage, the ailing Catherine makes a devil’s bargain that will cast a shadow over all."

Being that this new release is the fifth in the Cheney Sisters series, the first question I am asked is if I had read the previous four titles. The answer is no, though they all do sit patiently in a quaint cubby hole in my nightstand. In the normal way of things I would not read a series out of order, but in this case I wanted to review this some time this year rather than later. Otherwise it would sit unheeded in my quaint cubby hole with its' mates. As I began to read this, I did not feel at a disadvantage as the story wore on, only that I realized some of the events of the previous books were lightly touched upon throughout so that a new reader would not be lost in the current story. It served to whet my appetite for the other stories though and I do plan on pushing the other reads further up on the list so that I could learn more about the Cheney Sisters. They did not figure prominently in this novel except for Meg, but I could tell that their exciting events were featured in the previous books.

The title 'Twilight of A Queen' refers to the formidable Catherine De Medici, whom many have heard of for her dabbles in witchcraft and sorcery. She was the mother of French Kings, and was the other woman in her husband's life. Her true story is amazing in itself, and in this novel we see Catherine as an aging woman with aches and pains and struggling to maintain control over her witless son Henri; struggling to maintain a grip on the kingdom that despises her. She is intent on finding the infamous Book of Shadows and Meg, who is the person that Catherine believes holds the key to the book. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with the Dark Queen and her Royal son, I have a preference towards the Royal stories themselves and those were my favorite parts of the book.

With Catherine's waning power and obsessing over the secrets of the Book of Shadows is where Louis Xavier comes in as he is contracted by Catherine to procure the book. He is a dashing swashbuckler pirate with family issues. His dialogue was quite amusing to behold and he was really a typical arrogant man, and bastard being the right term here in all ways. The adventure takes off when Catherine pays Xavier to also bring back young Meg, the Silver Rose, from Faire Isle. Unbeknownst to Catherine, Xavier's father is also the Cheney sisters' father, and the twists begin.

For a clue on our Xavier's character, Miri asks what happened to her prized bird and her father's journals:
{Xavier:} "Regrettably I was obliged to eat the bird and I had to use the journals for kindling."
Miri paled, but she rallied, saying, "Well, if you were cold and starving, it is quite understandable. I only hope you remembered to thank the bird for sacrificing his life for you."
Xavier stared at her as though she were mad.

He was quite a rogue, I'd say. And yet all this just serves as the setting and backdrop of the story as this novel is primarily the focus of Jane Danvers who is exiled on Faire Isle from England, suffering from religious persecution of Elizabeth I and her secretary Walsingham. Jane Danvers and her brother Ned had been under Elizabeth's radar before, and I found a connection to Bess of Hardwick an interesting tidbit, as Jane and her brother were wards of Bess at one time. England itself is another behind the scenes feature as the rumors of the Spanish Armada loom and scare everyone in England for a time.

With "Twilight of A Queen" we see the conclusion of The Dark Queen series as a romance develops along with the many adventures of the pirate as he must choose between family loyalty (of which he never was known to do) and risk his life if he does so, or does he choose to be beguiled by a spell of The Dark Medici Queen herself and her money. I found the writing to be fluid and fast paced and did not see any glaring issues, except for the multiple mentions of dark fog in the opening of the novel. There seemed to be more of a predictability to this story since we knew this is the final book in the series, therefore there can not be a lot options logically to it. But despite even that, the storyline and the characters were indeed a delight and since I have not read the other books I do have something to look forward to. For those who have read the previous four and were looking for more of a dramatic conclusion, the actual ending here may not achieve that for you. I enjoyed the book all the way up to the ending and then it felt a bit forced and rushed. Perhaps after 5 novels surrounding virtually the same person the author was getting a little burnt out. But I still think that this is a fun series to tackle and is worthwhile for me to go back and read the others to catch up with the rest of the story.


Are you ready to read Twilight of A Queen by Susan Carroll? You can purchase it now, or enter here to win a copy.
Random House will send one lucky reader in the USA or Canada a copy of this book!
To enter you must do all of the following:
1-Comment on this post with your Email address.
2-Recommend to me a Catherine De Medici book that you have read
OR tell me why you want to read this and if you have read the series yet.

Please pay attention to these qualifications!
Giveaway ends August 7!