Monday, February 22, 2016

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee Review

Title: The Queen of the Night: A Novel
Author: Alexander Chee
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Do you enjoy ghost stories with unusual formatting? How about historical fiction? Kickbutt heroines who just might be telling the truth--or not? How about drama, secrets, and political intrigue that might just be rooted in real history? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, The Queen of the Night just might be the book that you're looking for.

I went into this novel unsure of what exactly to expect--I was excited, and happy, knowing only that The Queen of the Night fictionally documented a young ingenue trying to make her way up the social ladder throughout the world in the late 1800s. And look at that gorgeous cover! It was beautiful.

To be honest, I was a little intimidated at first. Clocking in at nearly six hundred pages, this epic novel literally defines epic: It was gigantic, and divided into five different, but interlocking, parts. But then I actually started reading, and then it was over. I was sucked into Chee's world at once, hypnotized by Lilliet's tale, a rags to riches story told in reverse. The pacing was breakneck, immediate--it was like Lilliet herself was there, holding me hostage, spellbound as I was by her narrative.

And then there were the characters themselves: Lillet, the gorgeous soprano that longs for freedom and independence. I really admired her--she was a woman who kicked butt and took names and refused to be ashamed of fighting to make a name for herself. It was refreshing to have a male author bring such blase, careless abandon to a female character--it was an amazing story, because of her and her alone. But what also made the book shine was, and bear with me here, the love triangle.

I know what you guys are thinking. I've gone off the deep end! But for real, hear me out: Lilliet's struggle to remain free and unfettered was partially so compelling because of her pursuers, the first a tenor, intent on posessing her by any means necessary, and the other, a sweet, gentle composer who longs to love her. Caught between them and her desperate pursuit for personal freedom, she discovers that even the brightest dreams can be thrown awry by that cruel mistress, Fate.

What really sold this novel for me though, was not the premise, nor the characters, though both certainly helped. It was the research. Almost every single scene, every single historical figure mentioned in the novel, large or small, has been meticulously researched to the best of the author's considerable ability. Books like this are the ones that made me fall in love with historical fiction in the first place. Absolutely stunning. That being said, with all the historical figures, it was difficult to keep track of them all, and it muddled the narrative a little bit as it went on.

A superlative sophomore novel nonetheless, Alexander Chee has absolutely outdone himself--a definite favorite of 2016! Next on deck: Medici's Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite De Valois by Sophie Perinot!

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