Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: Duchessina by Carolyn Meyer

Duchessina: A Novel of Catherine de' Medici by Carolyn Meyer
#5 in the Young Royals series
Release Date: June 1, 2007
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Pages: 272
Received: Library
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Young Catherine de' Medici is the sole heiress to the entire fortune of the wealthy Medici family. But her life is far from luxurious. After a childhood spent locked away behind the walls of a convent, she joins the household of the pope, where at last she can be united with her true love. But, all too soon, that love is replaced with an engagement to a boy who is cold and aloof. It soon becomes clear that Catherine will need all the cunning she can muster to command the respect she deserves as one of France's most powerful queens.


Catherine's boring

She's nice enough, but not in a good way. She's nice the way where I use "nice" to describe an inoffensive person when I can't think of anything else to say about them. Maybe I could also throw in bland and meek? That isn't helping matters, is it?

There just wasn't much to her. I also get the feeling that I don't have a clue what the real Catherine de' Medici was like. Catherine, the historical figure, is described in lots of very NOT nice ways, but there wasn't anything in Duchessina to even hint at any of that.

The plot is dreary

This isn't really Carolyn Meyer's fault. I mean, if she tried to spice things up by deviating from history I'd start complaining about that, so really, I can't hold this against her. Much.

Catherine's childhood is mostly a bunch of moving around from one convent to another. She's cut off from most of the world and, when she finally gets to France, she isn't given any political power (until after the book ends). So, yeah, kind of dull.

I'm not entirely convinced this couldn't have been made more interesting, though. Lots of political stuff was going on around Catherine, and I don't see why it couldn't have been integrated into the story more. I would have liked more details about the wars, battles, conspiracies, strife, and upheaval. Basically, all of the things that caused Catherine to have to move and go into hiding.

Also, her life is sad. Again, not Carolyn Meyer's fault. Catherine's childhood was full of death, failure, abandonment, starvation, and sadness. This was not a particularly uplifting book.

Maybe if I had cared more about Catherine I could have at least gotten into all that sadness. I mean, I went through a Lurlene McDaniel phase in my tween years and I'm a diehard Beaches fan, so it's not like I'm totally opposed to a good cry-fest. But I shed nary a tear for boring Catherine. I just couldn't muster up a care (and to put this in perspective, Carolyn Meyer had me sobbing at the end of her book about Marie Antoinette).

Everything's all uneven

I like a well-plotted book with a clear purpose and progression of events. I don't like slow paced books, but I also don't like unevenly paced books. Duchessina was both.

The slowness comes from the lack of really anything happening. There weren't even a ton of historical factoids to keep me occupied. Nothing propelled me to keep reading other than the fact that the book didn't have many pages and I didn't dislike it enough to stop. Also, I wasn't sure what I wanted to read next.

The uneven pacing is something I've also complained about with the Cleopatra book in this series. As in Cleopatra Confesses, Duchessina focuses on Catherine's childhood and stops just as things are getting good. I guess it is nice having a chance to get to know Catherine's life before she became the great historical figure, but it was frustrating to have Carolyn Meyer hint at Catherine's reputation and then never back up those hints with anything.

I also didn't appreciate the rush at the end. If we're stopping the story at a point other than Catherine's death, then just stop the story, please. Instead, I got a rushed synopsis of Catherine's life from the events at the end of the book up until her death. It was like watching a movie of her life and then getting bored partway through and watching the rest with the fast forward button pressed.

Bottom line

I love the idea of this series, but the reality isn't measuring up to my expectations. I feel like the Young Royals series is getting the, "Oh it's just YA" treatment, which I equate to sloppy stories with weak character development and little regard for accuracy. Young adults demand better, and it would be nice if authors and publishers took note.

So I'll be passing on ordering this one for my library. I did order and highly recommend The Bad Queen about Marie Antoinette, so I won't give up on the Young Royals series just yet!

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Duchessina that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews. Heads up, The Queen's Vow is adult fiction.


  1. A little off topic but...I wonder if you have to be a teen to really like Lurlene McDaniel's books. I sucked them up like a dying camel gulps water as a teenager. I read one last year though and thought it was far too dramatic.

    1. hm, that's a good question! Maybe. I definitely read some YA books now where I know I would have loved them as a teen, but they don't have the same impact now (and sometimes even irritate me!)

  2. *hugs*
    I'm sorry this one wasn't better. Catherine does sound pretty bland :(
    I hope the one you did order turns out way better.

    1. She was pretty bland. :( The one I did order (The Bad Queen) is very good!

  3. Oh no :( I'm sad. I haven't read this one, but I was hoping it'd be good. I'll probably give it a go anyways, just to see, but I'm still bummed. I love Meyers and hope the rest of the series lives up to the awesomeness of "The Bad Queen"! ;)

    Sierra @ Yearning to Read

    1. It's so short that if you're curious I'd recommend trying to find it in the library. It won't take long to read at all. Definitely not The Bad Queen, though! That one was so good.

  4. Hmm, this just isn't a book I would naturally gravitate towards. Now after reading your review, you have sealed the deal. I'll pass on this one. Thanks for the detailed review.

    1. Nope, this is definitely not your kind of book. I think you'd be pretty bored :P


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