‘Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman, it is a little more difficult, that’s all’
1768. Charlotte, daughter of the Habsburg Empress, arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Her sister Antoine is sent to France, and in the mirrored corridors of Versailles they rename her Marie Antoinette.
The sisters are alone, but they are not powerless. When they were only children, they discovered a book of spells – spells that work, with dark and unpredictable consequences.
In a time of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, they use the book to take control of their lives.
But every spell requires a sacrifice. And as love between the sisters turns to rivalry, they will send Europe spiralling into revolution.
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The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield 1768. Charlotte arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Two years later, her sister Antoine is sent to France to marry another stranger. In the mirrored corridors of Versailles, they rename her Marie Antoinette. But the sisters are not powerless. When they were only children, Charlotte and Antoine discovered a book of spells – spells that seem to work, with dark and unpredictable consequences. I really enjoy books where fact and fiction are mixed up and the result is a fantastic book that enchanted me from start to finish. A joy.
An alternative interpretation of eighteenth century history, concerning Marie Antoinette of France, and Charlotte, Queen of Naples. Magic is real and sacrifices must be made to attain it, in this reality. I really enjoyed this alternative view of history, and would recommend highly. A fascinating read.
Power, Politics and Enchantment Charlotte and Antonia, younger daughters of Maria Theresa of Habsburg are destined for politically advantageous marriages. Charlotte goes to Naples, where she learns to wield power and magic to hold the country for her brutish husband Ferdinand. Antonia is sent to France, renamed Marie Antoinette and married to the Dauphin, the future Louis XVI. Thrown into the courtly factions and unyielding traditions she uses magic to keep her head above water and her feet off the ground (literally, I loved the floating shoes). The sisters are self-taught sorceresses, using spells from a book left behind by a murdered governess, and in the chaos that is Eighteenth Century Europe, they need every iota of magic they can acquire. This was a book that ticked absolutely all my boxes. Historically accurate, set in the eighteenth century amidst all the wars, scheming, politics and revolution that built the world we live in today? Tick. Magic that was seamlessly part of the everyday world, even when controlled and hidden, which felt both realistic and workable? Tick. Relationships between families, sisters as rivals and friends, and friends as close as sisters? Tick. Betrayal and sorrow? Tick. Things to look up as I went, and the feeling that not only had I enjoyed a good, satisfying read, but that I had actually learnt something as well? Big tick. Of course, the disadvantage of something based on real history is that you know how it ends, and I was worried that I might find the latter part of the book a bit too doom-laden. Instead, there was some gentleness to the inevitable, and a genuinely surprising plot twist in the penultimate chapter, which I absolutely will not give away. I stayed up very late reading this. Having read the first half over a few days, I found myself unable to put it down as the tension mounted in the second half of the book. I was completely absorbed and it is by no means a small novel. I dreamt of volcanoes and baking bread last night, and this morning I am struggling to choose my next read because nothing else will take me back to that world. I had an advance reader copy of this as an ebook, thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins UK. It has a release date of February 2022, when I will have to buy a copy (hopefully with that lush cover) so that I can put it on my keeper shelf.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an e-copy of this book. This is one of those books you just want to dive into and wallow in! The story is both historical and magical and this works so well in telling this long story of two sisters, their kingdoms and their destinies. I know nothing about the history of this time, so have no idea of the accuracy here, but it is detailed and feels well researched. And I loved the introduction of magic, its secrecy and behind the scenes influence. I enjoyed reading both sisters' stories, as they tried to gain some control in lives which were mapped out in advance. All the characters were well drawn though, and I also liked how Ferdinand wasn't just a one-dimensional oaf but was portrayed as a loving and playful father. This book has made me want to find out more about these characters, and to read more books by this author.