Thursday, January 21, 2016

REVIEW: Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland

Mistress of the Sun
by Sandra Gulland

Publisher: Touchstone
Page Count: 400
Release Date: April 7, 2009
Format: Trade Paperback

How got: personal library; bought @ Hastings

First attention getter: synopsis


From GoodReads:

The author of the internationally acclaimed Josephine Bonaparte trilogy returns with another irresistible historical novel, this one based on the life of Louise de la Vallière, who, against all odds, became one of the most mysterious consorts of France's Louis XIV, the charismatic Sun King.

Set against the magnificent decadence of the seventeenth-century French court, Mistress of the Sun begins when an eccentric young Louise falls in love with a wild white stallion and uses ancient magic to tame him. This one desperate action of her youth shadows her throughout her life, changing it in ways she could never imagine.

Unmarriageable, and too poor to join a convent, Louise enters the court of the Sun King, where the king is captivated by her. As their love unfolds, Louise bears Louis four children, is made a duchess, and reigns unrivaled as his official mistress until dangerous intrigue threatens her position at court and in Louis's heart.

A riveting love story with a captivating mystery at its heart,Mistress of the Sun illuminates both the power of true and perfect love and the rash actions we take to capture and tame it.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

I’m starting to love works set in 1600s France and Spain; it’s an era of such change, passion, war, and splendor. Whether it’s Charle’s II of England, Oliver Cromwell, or Louis XIV of France, I don’t read nearly enough in this time frame. So I was glad to find this volume hidden on my shelves for my TBR mountain range challenge this year. I’ve been meaning to read it for a few years, but as is often the case, I just never got around to it.

I’ve read one other work by this author before through a GoodReads giveaway and enjoyed its attention to setting and description. This work pleases on that front as well. In fact, I think this work is a step up. The incredible, glittering world of early Louis XIV France makes for an astounding setting. Parties, theatrical productions, balls, gowns, ballets, and bucolic chateaus all make for lovely scenes for our drama. The author makes the reader live everything.

The main character was the only real downfall this book had; unfortunately, since the story is mainly told through her, it’s a fairly large downfall. I liked Louise well enough. She’s certainly brave to go against all her childhood teachings to become a mistress to a King. She also endures some harsh events like miscarriages, deaths of her children, and poisoning with grace and character.

Yet, I also found her to be a bit of a doormat. She never stands up for herself, against the King, his other mistresses, or anyone else for that matter. She pretty much nods, shrugs, and goes along with anyone else’s plan for her rather than her own wishes. Maybe this is true to form to the real historical figure; but in the format of a historical fiction, it doesn’t work so well.

I liked the secondary characters far more, especially Louis. I loved how the author humanized him. He wasn’t just the Sun King, divine ruler of the great nation of France. He was a passionate man who loved fiercely, hated weakness in himself and others, adored his children, and tried to rule as best he could. It’s amazing he kept any of his humanity at all in such an environment as absolute power; the old saying about such holds much truth.

Despite a main character that leaves much to be desired, this book still holds strong with a fantastic setting and story as well as secondary characters that shine. It inspired me even more to want to read more from this timeframe. I’m glad I picked it up for this challenge; now it won’t be staring me in the face anymore. Highly recommended for lovers of lush historical fiction!

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