The Shadow Queen: A Novel - Sandra Gulland

tl;dr this book was ok. Not quite what I was expecting, but it was still a pretty decent story. 

Description (from Goodreads) 1660, Paris: As the daughter of itinerant actors who once lit up the Parisian stages, Claudette always thought her future lay in the theater. But a series of chance encounters pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of the most beautiful woman in all of France: Athénaïs de Montespan, the mistress to Louis XIV and reigning "Shadow Queen." Impetuous by nature, Athénaïs wields a disconcerting amount of power-a fact that has ruffled many of the Sun King's key advisors. Needing someone to act as her eyes and ears, Athénaïs hires Claudette as a personal attendant. The young stagehand leaves the world of theater only to find that Court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin while young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king's bed. Indeed, Claudette's supposedly respectable new position is marked by spying, rumormongering, illicit trysts, and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs begins to lose her grip on the Sun King, her plots and fascination with the magical arts take a dark turn that makes Claudette question her allegiance to this mercurial figure-and puts the young maid's very life in jeopardy. Set against the gilded opulence of a newly constructed Versailles and the blood-stained fields of the Franco-Dutch War, The Shadow Queen is a seductive, gripping novel about lust, power, loyalty and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong-willed women whose actions have the ability to shape the future of France

I know, that description was super long. But I couldn't quite figure out how to describe the book without giving everything away, nor did the details stand out in my memory. Also, this is the thing. Reading that description, it sounds like Claudette is found by Athénaïs when she is 12 and goes to court as a child. And thats not what happens. I'm not going to explain how everything goes down, and I'm not going to really go into it, but you should be aware: Claudette doesn't go to court until after the first two thirds of the book is down. 

So thats one thing you should be ware of going into this novel. Is a very human story. Her life isn't particularly remarkable, and she is faced with some hardships that she figures out how to overcome. When she finally goes to court, it doesn't last long which is unfortunate. Court is so interesting and foreign of a concept, and thats what I love to read about when I am reading historical fiction. In this, her life was pretty much like anyone else's life. And could even be very similar to the life of someone without much money today. 

Anyways. It wasn't terrible, it just wasn't what I was expecting. And I wish there had been more of court. Worth a read if you enjoy historical fiction and simple, human stories.