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Queen Jezebel
by Jean Plaidy

The third book in the Catherine de’ Medici series, following The Italian Woman and Madame Serpent.

Catherine de’ Medici’s greatest triumph came when she defeated her rival Queen Jeanne of Navarre, but her kingdom has slid into turmoil ever since. She arranges the marriage of her daughter Margot to Jeanne’s son, now King of Navarre, in the hopes that the union of their two houses will bring peace to France. But the religious factions of Huguenots and Catholics refuse to settle down, and Catherine’s control over her son the King is slipping. After the bloody and systemic execution of the Huguenots, ordered by King Charles, he grows ill and dies, allowing his younger brother Henry – always the favorite of the Queen Mother – to ascend to the throne. But Catherine finds that her willful favorite has no desire to obey her or rule wisely, and as the years pass the aging queen finds herself losing the power she fought all of her life to gain.

The sons of Catherine de’ Medici were not good rulers, and France begins to unravel as religious wars tear the people apart. As the country descends into chaos, Catherine likewise begins to fall. Her age and failing health prevent her from ruling with the same vigor as in her middle age; at times, I did feel sorry for her as she realized control of France was slipping away and there was nothing she could do to prevent it. Her children are all seriously flawed – Charles is half-mad, Margot a promiscuous wanton, and Henry a spoiled brat who cares for fashion and cosmetics, not affairs of state. Catherine never quite faces the realization that her parenting was a factor in the producing such an inept and ineffective brood, which was too bad; I was looking forward to that epiphany, but it never came. This want of psychological depth has been a problem throughout the series, so I guess it’s only fitting that the conclusion followed through.

I’m really having trouble finding anything new to say about the series. Mostly, I feel like rehashing my comments on the first two books in the trilogy. Jean Plaidy is definitely an author that “tells” rather than “shows” in her writing; page after page of exposition makes the political events and constantly shifting allegiances clear, but there’s little emotion to help the reader connect with the characters. I finished this novel not because I cared about Queen Catherine or her children, but merely because I’d already finished the first two books and felt obliged to push through the final two hundred pages to complete the series.

2 out of 5 stars

To read more about Queen Jezebel, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Genkaku Picasso Vol. 1 by Usamaru Furuya
2011: Fashionista Piranha will be on hiatus for a while…
2010: Discussion Question: Do you have to like the characters?
2009: Murder of a Medici Princess by Caroline Murphy


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