The Bad Queen

Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette (Young Royals)
421p. 978-0-15206-376-4.
Gr 6—9—This novel about the ill-fated queen covers her life from age 13 when, as an Austrian princess, she prepares to marry the French dauphin to her death by guillotine in 1793. The final section is told by her daughter Marie-Therese, the only family member to survive the Revolution. Meyer writes in a lighthearted, casual style, vividly portraying the historical era and aptly defining unfamiliar vocabulary. However, Marie-Antoinette's occasional sympathy for the poor and interest in politics is inconsistent with her flighty, self-indulgent character as presented in most of the book. (Frankly, she comes across as a total airhead.) In addition, after the first 100 pages, The Bad Queen turns into a speedy recitation of events, skipping through years at a time with little insight or development and little spark or personality from the narrators. Kimberley Brubaker Bradley's fascinating novel The Lacemaker and the Princess (S & S, 2007) features Marie-Therese and does an excellent job of integrating events leading up to the French Revolution with life at the palace of Versailles. Although it doesn't have as much material on Marie-Antoinette, it's more interesting and better written.—Ann W. Moore, Schenectady County Public Library, NY
Young Maria Antonia must become Marie Antoinette and marry the French dauphin. Each chapter title is an instruction: "Perfection must be your goal." The story of her reign as queen, and her ultimate execution, is told through her eyes and with a sympathetic point of view. While Marie is well developed, other main characters are less so.
Marie-Antoinette is portrayed sympathetically, but her flaws are not glossed over. The transformation from scared young girl to petulant queen seems almost inevitable, yet still tragic. The world is fully drawn, with plenty of period details (regarding food, dress, hygiene, architecture, and more) and is easy to envision. Readers will relate to Marie-Antoinette as she divulges her hopes, dreams, fears, and insecurities, which are similar to those of many young people. The book provides an interesting view of the French Revolution, a movement not often portrayed from the perspective of royalty.

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