The Queen of the Night
author : alexander chee
pages : [hardcover] 561
memorable quote : Men often complain of the wickedness of women. Of how we delight in what power we have over their hearts. But they reign over everything else, so of course, they grudge us this, should we ever come to rule over this thing the size of their fist.
Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer’s chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all. As she mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from hippodrome rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to debut singer, all the while weaving a complicated web of romance, obligation, and political intrigue.
Featuring a cast of characters drawn from history, The Queen of the Night follows Lilliet as she moves ever closer to the truth behind the mysterious opera and the role that could secure her reputation — or destroy her with the secrets it reveals.
This book was much more than I’d expected.
Lilliet Berne is a complex character. For starters, that’s only one of the various names she uses to identify herself throughout the book as she continuously switches identities. Whether it’s because she moves to a new place, starts a new profession, or meets a new group of people, Lilliet is constantly changing herself to fit in. She’s an exceptional chameleon, and great at surviving terrible times in Paris, America, and Germany, just to name three countries in which she almost died.
In spite of how intense that is, and how much of a badass she could be, the plot was very slow. This is an enormous book, packed with historical detail and character pieces. I enjoyed knowing so much about the time period and the various settings Lilliet found herself in. In spite of this, however, there seemed to be a constant thrum of repetition. Yes, I understand, she couldn’t completely escape her past and all of that. But I had no idea of where the book or plot was going to go because Lilliet seemed to have absolutely no life goals for herself. I understand taking the best opportunity when it is presented to you and going with it, but come on. We could have had some idea of what she’d have liked to do with her life if absolutely no one would have interfered and money was no object.
I’ve been really interested in historical fiction lately so I was glad to see this as a choice as a Book of the Month pick. Honestly, I might not have picked up this book on my own otherwise, because I’d never heard of it before. It’s unlike anything else I’ve read and it’s the kind of story that stays with you long after you read the final page. Usually wondering what if THIS had happened instead of THAT and knowing that you had just as little control over the plot as Lilliet had over her complicated, dangerous life.
I received this book from Book of the Month in exchange for an honest review. My review was in no way effected by this.
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