review: the second empress

04 August 2012

book info:
ages: 13 and up
grades: 8 and up. years: 9 and up
on sale: August 14th
copy from: publisher (Crown) thanks!
pages: 448

title: The Second Empress
author: Michelle Moran

After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When Marie-Louise, the eighteen year old daughter of the King of Austria, is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon, leaving the man she loves and her home forever, or say no, and plunge her country into war.

Marie-Louise knows what she must do, and she travels to France, determined to be a good wife despite Napoleon’s reputation. But lavish parties greet her in Paris, and at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s first wife, Jos├ęphine, and his sister Pauline, the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. Beloved by some and infamous to many, Pauline is fiercely loyal to her brother. She is also convinced that Napoleon is destined to become the modern Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed, her greatest hope is to rule alongside him as his queen—a brother-sister marriage just as the ancient Egyptian royals practiced. Determined to see this dream come to pass, Pauline embarks on a campaign to undermine the new empress and convince Napoleon to divorce Marie-Louise.

As Pauline's insightful Haitian servant, Paul, watches these two women clash, he is torn between his love for Pauline and his sympathy for Marie-Louise. But there are greater concerns than Pauline's jealousy plaguing the court of France. While Napoleon becomes increasingly desperate for an heir, the empire's peace looks increasingly unstable. When war once again sweeps the continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family in Austria, the second Empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history—and change the course of her life. (goodreads)

note: I got the ARC edition, which is plain and blue, so you all get to read with the full, beautiful experience, haha :D I think the cover might have made a difference, as both the women fit the characters I imagined.

I love Michelle Moran's books on Egypt, and was a bit thrown off with her novel on Madame Tussaud, and I think disappointed by The Second Empress. I think her brilliant work on Nefertiti and  The Heretic Queen set high standards, and this novel didn't really meet them.

In all her works, history plays a bigger role than characters. Perhaps it's that the length of this book is shorter than I expected, with just about three hundred pages (in my ARC, there's more in the finished copy), or that the story was told was three alternative POVs that left little room for character development. I know that history always plays a huge part in her books, but she'd always explore characters as well, and that's what I didn't see in this book.

At first, I had to flip through and check which Maria was speaking, and then I was thrown into the book. I had no idea what was going on in this time period, but slowly learned. The writing is well done, the description, the language, and the emotion. And I think that's what kept me going the entire way.

The most interesting character is Pauline Bonaparte and her slight craziness, and her chamberlain, Paul. Their relationship is really complex, and I would've loved to have read the history behind it (their history) Pauline's relationship with her brother is strange. Napoleon is torn between wanting her and not,  but nevertheless is attracted to her for several reasons, and Pauline wants nothing but to marry him. It might be because they're so alike, and so close. The incestuous feelings they have for each other is....fine, I guess. It's just...there.

Maria Lucia, the third POV (or rather the first one, in order of occurrence) was the one I cared about most, because she reminds me of female heroines, sacrificing herself to make an "alliance" and please the all-powerful Emperor and appeasing any harm that may have been inflicted upon her country. She travels to a foreign land, unwillingly, and gets through.

This book isn't my most favourite, but it's definitely a book for historian buffs. Because I myself didn't enjoy it much, I'll give it a two and half tree rating.

1 thoughts:

  1. I've read Madame Tussaud, which I loved, and Cleopatra's Daughter, which I just liked. I've got a review copy of this waiting for me, really looking forward to starting it.


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