Sunday, April 10, 2011
Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr
Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr
Inside Flap Description:
Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, and Mary, Queen of Scots. What did they have in common? Long nights in dark prison towers and a march to the scaffold where they surrendered their heads to the executioner. Throughout history, royal women have had a distressing way of meeting bad ends--dying of starvation, being burned at the stake, or expiring in childbirth while trying desperately to produce an heir. And all too often, even devious plotting, miraculous pregnancies, and selling out their sisters were not enough to keep them from forcible consignment to religious orders. From Cleopatra (suicide by asp) to princess Caroline (suspiciously poisoned on her coronation day), there's a gory downside to being blue-blooded when you lack a Y chromosome.
Doomed Queens is a chronicle of the trials and tribulations of queens across the ages, a quirky, funny, utterly macabre tribute to the dark side of female empowerment. Over the course of fifty irresistibly illustrated and all-too-brief lives, we meet well-known figures like Catherine of Aragon, whose happy marriage to Henry VIII ended prematurely when it became clear that she was a starter wife-the first of six. And we meet forgotten queens like Amalasuntha, the notoriously literate Ostrogoth princess who overreached politically and was strangled in her bath.
While their ends were bleak, those queens did not die without purpose. Their unfortunate lives were colorful cautionary tales for today's would-be power brokers--a legacy of worldly and womanly wisdom gathered one spectacular regal ruin at a time.
My Rating: B
I picked up this book because of all that it had to offer. It starts with a very catching and interesting introduction, which is followed by a graphics key that is fun to reference throughout the reading of the book. A timeline is included and it ties into the graphics key as well.
The chapters are split up into eras, and have illustrations both by the author and from classic art. What I really enjoyed was that at the end of each chapter there are fun little 4 or 5 question quiz's, and at the end of the entire book there's a 20 question quiz to find out (like in Cosmo) if you're a doomed queen.
I enjoyed the first few chapters of this book, and was excited to learn about all of the queens I'd never heard of before. I think that the author keeps the information interesting, starting as early as possible in the life of the particular woman, and going all the way to death. When the Queen seems to deserve pity, or sympathy for her position, or hard life, you can feel the author giving that to her. I liked that, because sometimes you just want to go "Oh...you poor thing, you just never had a chance".
One thing that bothered me just a little about this book was when I was reading the sections about the wives of Henry VIII it seemed like some of the information the author gave came straight from the television show The Tudors. I worried a little that her information actually came from the show. I feel confident that this is untrue given the LONG list of books that she referenced in the back of the book.
While this book was fun, and interesting, the writing was not as witty as I thought it would be. I still enjoyed it, but I felt like it was suppose to be more...humorous. Let me mention here that I am completely ok with the fact that it wasn't, it just seemed like it was suppose to be more so.
One part that was funny, and can give you an idea of what the book offers (which is pretty awesome) is the instructions for the paper dolls that are included with the book (that's right, paper dolls!)
1. Slice off the front book flap and trim the dolls along the dotted lines. Scissors or an X-Acto knife will do the job.
2. To make the dolls stand, fold along the dashed lines on the black bases.
3. If you're not fond of defacing books, you can color photocopy the dolls onto card stock, then follow steps 1 and 2.
4. To locate additional paper dolls take a gander under the back flap.
5. Experience history in action: download background panoramas--scaffold, castle, and more--for your dolls at doomedqueens.com. Any royal heads cut off during play can be easily restored with clear tape.
These instructions came straight from the book, and explain what I meant about humor. They made me smile, but they did not make me laugh. I hope that makes sense to my readers.
All in all for those who like authors like Eleanor Herman, I recommend this book! It's a great way to get a little taste of what the poor women who were in the royal chambers had to go through to keep their positions, and how it usually went poorly for them no matter what.