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Review: Twilight of a Queen, Susan Carroll

From the back of the book:

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 story 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.

This is the fifth and final book in the Dark Queen series.  I chose to provide the book’s summary because there are many plotlines here and I didn’t want to miss any! I intended to read the first four in the series before getting to this one, but then ran out of time, so I was worried I’d feel I’d missed something.  To some extent I know I did, but this book stands alone extremely well.  I understood everything that was going on without a problem and possibly wouldn’t even have noticed it was a series wrap-up if I hadn’t been told!

There are two threads to this story and they intertwine close to the end.  The first is the Dark Queen Catherine de Medici’s search for Megeara, the former Silver Rose.  Meg has memorized all the secrets from a dark book which Catherine believes is the cure for all of her ills.  Catherine knows Meg is on Faire Isle, and tries to send Xavier there to get her.  Xavier has no intention of doing so, until a storm blows his ship off course and sends him overboard, just in time for Lady Jane Danvers to find him nearly dead on the beach.  Jane, a Catholic exile from England, is all but alone in the world, and Xavier proves to be just what she needs by way of a little romance and a lot of love.

This book proved to be a very enjoyable historical fantasy novel about how the late sixteenth century French court might have been with the addition of a little magic.  Thanks to the various threads of the plot, there is a lot of action and the reader is often left wondering what is going to happen next, particularly thanks to Meg’s scrying abilities.  We know the future, but not how the characters are going to get there nor what will happen afterwards.  The love story is sweet and believable.  I found myself attached to all of the characters, especially Meg, even though I had never “met” them before.  I’m very much looking forward to reading the first four, which I have, and finding out just how they all got to this point.

In short, Twilight of a Queen comes very recommended, especially to those who like historical fiction with a touch of fantasy and romance.

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