Monday, February 27, 2012

Review: Before Versailles by Karleen Koen

Before Versailles
Author: Karleen Koen
Published: June 28, 2011
Genre: historical fiction
Hardcover: 460 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating:  2 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): After the death of his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, twenty-two-year-old Louis steps into governing France. He’s still a young man, but one who, as king, willfully takes everything he can get—including his brother’s wife. As the love affair between Louis and Princess Henriette burns, it sets the kingdom on the road toward unmistakable scandal and conflict with the Vatican. Every woman wants him. He must face what he is willing to sacrifice for love. But there are other problems lurking outside the chateau of Fontainebleau: a boy in an iron mask has been seen in the woods, and the king’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet, has proven to be more powerful than Louis ever thought—a man who could make a great ally or become a dangerous foe ...

My Thoughts: I enjoy a good historical fiction novel, especially one that centers around the French monarchy (they were so odd and yet set the precedent for how courts around Europe should behave). So this books seemed like something right up my alley, following Louis XIV right as he begins his reign as king. However, there was so much going on in this book that there ended up being very little plot and too many characters coming and going. At first, it seems like the book will follow Louise, a maid of honor to the king's brother's wife. Then, it seems like we will be following Louis himself. Then maybe, his scheming finance minister, Fouquet. Then there is a boy with an iron mask! Seriously, there was so much going on that it became too much to handle and seemed like four different novels were all smooshed together into this one book.

There were also a lot of characters in this story. Normally, I don't mind a lot of characters, as long as they are all important to the plot. However, many of these characters didn't seem to do anything and would come into the story for a chapter or two, disappear for a hundred pages, then show up again. It just became a lot to keep track of, and since many of them weren't contributing anything to the story, it just seemed very cluttered. I did enjoy the writing and it was evident that Karleen Koen did a lot of research for this story. For me, though, there was just too much going on with this book, but not enough story being told.


  1. I had the same problems you did with this book. The writing was fantastic, but there was so much going on and I kept waiting for it to come together. Unfortunately, it never came together and I finally gave up. I've seen great reviews for this so I'm glad I'm not the only one who had trouble!

  2. Oh darn, I was hoping that this would be a good one, as I love historical fiction, and enjoy reading about this period.

    I agree, though, that while I am fine with alot of characters, they actually have to have a reason to be there...and it sounds like that is not the case here.

  3. This one was on my list to buy but I've hesitated for some reason. Maybe I should take it off because I think I would feel the same as you.