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Charlatan Paperback – September 15, 2016
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
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In Charlatan, Braithwaite weaves a dark, intricate tale of mystery, sorcery, and a woman's desperate pursuit to charm the most powerful man in the seventeenth-century France. Braithwaite's debut is stunning with an array of distinctive characters, a gripping plot, and a perfection portion of poison and witchcraft. Brilliant!
Weina Dai Randel, author of The Moon in the Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon.
"I enjoyed it enormously...you brought The Affair flooding back to me with added excellent detail...It really is a remarkable achievement." Anne Somerset, author The Affair of the Poisons
"This book kept me reading into the night...luxury and squalor, royal scandal and sorcery...how could it not?" Fay Weldon, author The Life and Loves of a She-devil
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Police attempt to figure out who is dabbling in the Dark Arts and will not stop at mere interrogations but have resorted to torture and even public executions in order to remove any suspicion or threat of sorcery from the king's court. When they focus their investigation on Catherine Montvoisin, a woman known for providing Dark solutions, it has a rippling effect among not only the nobility but those further down the social food chain.
This is a time of greed, corruption and climbing the social ladder where being in or out of favour with the King of France brings different kinds of danger. There is mystery, intrigue, sinister plots and a rather large group of characters. The story lines are reasonably intricate without being too fussy or overly verbose but seem to have a rather narrow scope.
At the heart of the book there are two different story lines. One follows Philippe Bezons, the young assistant to the chief of police who is eager to prosecute Montvoisin but not if it puts the woman he loves at risk. The other story line follows Athenais, the aging mistress of the King, who is suspected of using Dark magic to maintain the King's attention. It is her story that I found most compelling and to whom I was most sympathetic.
I will admit that it took me a little bit to get into the story but once it got rolling I was quite engaged. The one criticism I had was that there were so many characters, many of whom are secondary, within the two story lines that it was sometimes difficult to remember the specific traits, history etc of different characters and to keep track of who was who.
Readers will be impressed with the writing in this novel. Braithwaite's writing is so descriptive that you can clearly imagine the beautiful gardens and ornate surroundings of the grand palaces as well as the truly decrepit and fetid conditions of the Chateau de Vincennes, the overpopulated prison where some rather graphic torture takes place.
There is a lot going on in this book but Braithwaite has woven an intriguing story. It is clear that she has done a lot of research on this era. Since I typically don't read much historical fiction centred in France I was pleased to learn that many of the characters in her book were based on real historical figures with a touch of fiction to bring it all together. Might as well learn a little while enjoying a suspenseful read, right?
This is a book that focuses on what people will do in order to achieve their deepest, and sometimes, darkest desires. It's a book about maintaining power at any cost as well as the impact of fear and jealousy. Fans of Jane Johnson (Pillars of Light) and Sally Christie (The Sisters of Versailles) should enjoy this book.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to author Kate Braithwaite for providing me with a complimentary copy of her book in exchange for my honest review.
What motivates an author to write historical fiction? The telling of stories untold? A revisioning of the past? Retrospective justice? Charlatan is all these and more. Told in richly descriptive and highly engaging prose, the work portrays in vivid details the torture, hangings and burnings of witches and their accomplices, including numerous priests. The author clearly knows her subject, the work as much informative as it is entertaining. Told from three points of view – the King’s mistress, the investigating police officer, the priest – Charlatan provides a fascinating insight into the occult underworld of Paris, its popularity, its secrecy, and the various motivations of those involved.
The premise of the story is the limitations of justice in a system riven by poverty and privilege, and it is a theme that plays out perfectly through masterful storytelling. The dialogue is impeccable and the pace never falters, the various storylines carefully woven into a seamless whole. Charlatan makes for confronting reading at times, but its all the stronger for not shying from the realities of the times. With Charlatan, Braithwaite makes a valuable contribution to raising awareness of a controversial subject.
Most recent customer reviews
' Kate Braithwaite has crafted a compelling and convincing piece of writing out of a real-life scandal.Read more
Kate Braithwaite's CHARLATAN is brimming with intrique, power, mystique. There's more.Read more