Synopses & Reviews
Susan Carroll begins a trilogy about the French Renaissance Queen Catherine de Medici.
"When a wounded captain of the Navarre army arrives on Faire Isle in 1572 and calls for an audience with Daughter of the Earth (aka healer, or witch) Ariane Cheney, he provokes the wrath of the eponymous queen of France, Catherine de Medici, in this readable historical romance by the author of The Bride Finder. The captain's queen, Jeanne of Navarre, has second thoughts about marrying off her son to Catherine's daughter (a union arranged to smooth troubled Catholic-Protestant relations); the next day, she's dead. Ariane reluctantly agrees to help the captain prove that Catherine murdered Jeanne with a cursed pair of gloves, although the healer has plenty on her plate already, what with caring for her two younger sisters, the innocent Mirabelle and the conniving Gabrielle, and fending off the advances of her new neighbor, the lusty, muscular Comte de Renard. As Ariane investigates the magic gloves, the Dark Queen's soldiers prowl the island, witch hunters seek their prey, Renard woos his reluctant would-be bride with the aid of an enchanted ring and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre looms. Carroll breaks no new ground in this overlong tale, but readers in the mood for a marriage plot spiced with magic should find that this one does the trick. Agent, Andrea Cirillo. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Reading Group Guide
1. The Dark Queen
is set in France, in 1572, where the rule of the Valois line, and the behind-the-throne power of Catherine de Medici, is threatened by religious ferment between Catholics and Protestant Huguenots. Why do you think the author chose to set her book in this place and time?
2. The novel begins with a recounting of the legend of the Daughters of the Earth, a sect of women devoted to a mother goddess whose history precedes the Catholic Church. Do you believe there is any truth to this legend? Were there really such “wise women” in Renaissance France?
3. The Daughters of the Earth make a distinction between black magic and white magic. The Catholic Church and its witch-hunting inquisitors do not agree; to them, all magic is evil. What is your opinion?
4. Catherine de Medici is presented as a villain, a Daughter of the Earth who has chosen to follow the path of black magic. But given the time and her position, not to mention the difficulties faced by any woman of talent and ambition in a male-dominated society, is she really to be condemned for utilizing every advantage in the struggle for power? Is she being held to a different standard than would apply to a man of the time?
5. How important is historical accuracy in a romance like the Dark Queen? Where do you think that the author strays from the historical record, and why?
6. Ariane Cheney inherits the title and responsibilities of the Lady of Faire Isle from her mother. Does that mean she is the wisest or the most powerful Daughter of the Earth on the island? If not, what is the significance of the title?
7. Magic involving the dead is known as necromancy and is generally viewed as the blackest of black magic. Yet Ariane employs necromancy three times in order to commune with the spirit of her mother. Doesnt that make her evil, regardless of her intentions?
8. Is the spirit of Arianes mother too quick to forgive her husband for his betrayal of her with one of the Dark Queens Flying Squadron? And is Ariane to slow to forgive him?
9. Why is Gabrielle Cheney so suspicious of the Comte de Renard? Are her suspicions justified in any way?
10. How did Gabrielle lose her powers? Do you believe her powers are truly gone, or is she psychologically blocked from using them
11. What abilities set Miri apart from her older sisters?
12. Do you think the portrayal of the Inquisition in The Dark Queen is a fair and accurate one?
13. What evidence is there in the novel that the religious beliefs of the Daughters of the Earth are valid? Is there any evidence in the novel for the validity of the religious beliefs of Catholics and Protestants? On the whole, where do you think the authors sympathies lie?
14. What initially draws Justice Deauville, the Comte de Renard, to Ariane?
15. If you were a woman pursued by Renard in the manner that he pursues Ariane, how would you react?
16. What is the magic of the rings worn by Ariane and Renard? Are the rings black magic?
17. How are Melusine and Catherine de Medici alike? In what ways are they different? Which did you find a more sympathetic character, and why?
18. There are many traditional fairy tale motifs in this romance. How many can you identify? How has the author adapted them to her story?