Friday, October 17, 2014

Faces of the Dead by Suzanne Weyn

Genre: Historical fantasy
Series: Nope, standalone
Pages: 201
Rating: ***
Princess Marie Therese Charlotte, daughter of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, lives in a bubble. When she switches places with her maid, Ernestine, she expects to find adventure and freedom. Instead, she stumbles into a gritty, poor world where the people of France cry out for bread and royal blood. Then revolution strikes. Marie Therese and Ernestine switch places again, this time for her safety. She finds work as a head collector at the guillotine and romance with Henri, a peasant boy. But Marie Therese isn't the only one who's more than she seems. Their friends Madame Groshaltz and Rose (the future Madame Tussaud and Josephine, Napoleon's wife) conduct strange experiments on the decapitated heads that seem designed to raise the dead.
At barely 200 pages, Faces of the Dead is scrawny for historical fiction, especially one that takes place in such a dramatic time period. The French Revolution comes to life through grotesque details, like the way Marie Therese comes home from work covered in blood splatters each day. We see her fall from princess to pauper, which means character growth for her and balanced perspective for us. Fantasy elements and historical elements compliment each other, and though it's more factual than fantastic, the magic gives the story a dramatic twist at the end. The romance doesn't develop as much as I would've liked, again, thanks to the length. I read it in a day easy. If that's what you're going for, Faces of the Dead is quick look at the French Revolution with more grit than glamour. 

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