Wednesday, December 10, 2008
In the Shadow of the Sun King- Golden Keyes Parsons
In 17th Century France the Huguenots, French Protestants, are being persecuted for their beliefs. Their schools and hospitals have been closed and they are excluded from serving in King Louis’s court. Madeline Clavell has given up much for her faith, her family court position, wealth and her family’s aristocratic standing. She is unwilling to give up her family though, and goes to any length to keep those close to her safe from Louis’s tyranny.
When the king’s dragoons take over Madeline’s house as a country headquarters for their torment of the Huguenots, she sends her two sons into hiding with their uncle to prevent them from being captured and taken for re-education in the Catholic schools. Desperate to protect her children and husband from further persecution Madeline travels to Versailles to plead with the king. As his former friend and love, Madeline hopes that the king will spare her. When she refuses to become his mistress however, Louis is furious and rather than help her he sends orders for the dragoons to destroy her house, send her young daughter to the convent and her husband to the prison in Paris, the Bastille.
Madeline returns to her home to find it burned to the ground, all of her servants, her husband and daughter gone. Her two boys were kept safe in a nearby cave by their uncle Jean, and with them Madeline travels to seek a safe haven. The Protestants in Geneva welcome the bedraggled troop of Huguenots and the Clavells slowly begin to rebuild their life. Madeline cannot stop thinking about her daughter and husband however, and with the help of a friend in King Louis’s court, works tirelessly to completely reunite her family.
I actually really enjoyed this book. It isn’t one that I would have normally picked up off of the shelf, as I’m not a huge historical fiction person, but it was well written. The beginning is fast paced and quite hard to put down. The characters are engaging and the historical content is interesting without being too info-dumpy. I liked how Parsons alternated between different perspectives in the chapters. The second half was definitely slower, but still interesting. I was somewhat disappointed by the ending, but it is the first book in a series, so I suppose that Parsons had to leave some questions open to continue into the next novel. It is her debut novel and I’m eager to read more. All in all, it was an enjoyable read and though I wouldn’t necessarily call it a beach read, it’s close. Maybe a by-the-fire-with-a-cup-of-something-hot read…