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The Dark Queen    by Susan Carroll order for
Dark Queen
by Susan Carroll
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2005 (2005)
Paperback, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

The three sisters Cheney are descendents of the Lady of the Faire Isle. They are 'daughters of the Earth' and their legacy is the gift of healing and white magic. Ariane, the eldest sister, wears the mantle of her wise and beloved mother whose recent death is said to be the result of dark magic conjured by her bitter rival, Queen Catherine de Medici. All of Europe is afraid of the 'Dark Queen' who is said to employ black magic to ensure her own and her children's continued and uncontested power. Even with this knowledge, Ariane is content to remain in her home and watch over her sisters and the people of the Isle. She knows that this is what her peaceful mother would have wanted her to do.

The Comte de Renard is determined to make Ariane his wife. His grandmother (also a wise woman) saw a prophecy that proclaimed Renard would become lost and would find his true path after meeting a 'woman with quiet eyes'. When this prophecy comes true, Renard's determination is unrelenting, but Ariane wants nothing to do with the arrogant nobleman who, she senses, harbors too many dangerous secrets. Then a wounded stranger arrives on Faire Isle with evidence that could destroy the Dark Queen. The only man who can help Ariane stop Catherine is Renard. But when she summons him, she discovers that he is already on his way to Paris after receiving a false summons from the Dark Queen herself.

To save Renard's life Ariane knows she must at last confront Catherine di Medici. She and her sisters arrive in Paris during the aftermath of St. Bartholomew's Eve, a night that should have been one of celebration but was instead filled with hatred and bloodshed after Catherine's release of a miasma, a poisonous elixir conjured using dark magic. Ariane fears that Renard might be lost to her, swept up in the carnage of that horrible night, but after an audience with Catherine, she learns that Renard is being held in the Bastille. And that his only hope of survival is for Ariane to give up Catherine's incriminating secret.

After a four year hiatus, gifted writer Susan Carroll blazes back into the historical romance scene with The Dark Queen, book one of a new trilogy featuring the Daughters of the Faire Isle - Ariane, Gabrielle and Mirabelle. Carroll's characters shine, and her exciting plots are unsurpassed. The Renaissance era offers a lush backdrop, where royal intrigue and religious persecution run rampant. The plot is further complicated by Catherine de Medici's evil machinations for power. Whether you're already a fan of Carroll's work or are discovering her for the first time, The Dark Queen spins a wonderful tale of love, intrigue and magic, as well as offering fascinating sub-plots for sisters Gabrielle and Miri. Watch for The Courtesan (Gabrielle's story) in August, 2005.

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