Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Review: Faces of the Dead by Suzanne Weyn

Goodreads summary:

When Marie-Therese, daughter of Marie Antoinette, slips into the streets of Paris at the height of the French Revolution, she finds a world much darker than what she's ever known.

When Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France learns of the powerful rebellion sweeping her country, the sheltered princess is determined to see the revolution for herself. Switching places with a chambermaid, the princess sneaks out of the safety of the royal palace and into the heart of a city in strife.

Soon the princess is brushing shoulders with revolutionaries and activists. One boy in particular, Henri, befriends her and has her questioning the only life she's known. When the princess returns to the palace one night to find an angry mob storming its walls, she's forced into hiding in Paris. Henri brings her to the workshop of one Mademoiselle Grosholtz, whose wax figures seem to bring the famous back from the dead, and who looks at Marie-Thérèse as if she can see all of her secrets. There, the princess quickly discovers there's much more to the outside world - and to the mysterious woman's wax figures - than meets the eye.

My review:

I've always enjoyed Weyn's books.  They're quick, fun reads, and I read quite a few of her fairytale retellings in my early teens.  So I was looking forward to reading Faces of the Dead.  It was a fast and interesting read that held my attention, although it does have a few problems.

What I liked:  History fans, be sure to check this book out!  Weyn captures the gritty feel of the French Revolution perfectly, and she doesn't hold back.  Every dark detail is there.  I felt like I was swept away in that time period.  Even in such a short book, I learned so many facts about the French Revolution.

There is a strong cast of characters too.  It's so clever that the main character, Marie-Therese, is the daughter of Marie Antionette!  I haven't heard of many YA books about Marie Antionette, and I liked how she's inserted into the story.  In fact, all the members of Marie-Therese's family are so realistic and distinctive.  Another interesting addition is Marie-Therese's maidservant and friend, who looks just like her, enough that the two of them frequently switch roles.  I liked all the characters and felt caught up in their story.

What I didn't like:  Something about this book just didn't click for me.  I liked everything, but I didn't love it.  I think part of the reason why this book didn't totally work for me is that it's so short.  It's barely 200 pages, and it took me a little over an hour to read it.  It was as if the whole story was over so quickly, especially because it spans so much time - we jump from Marie-Therese's childhood, to her preteens, to her teens, etc.  It was like the story never paused long enough for me to grow attached to the characters.

Something else that felt off was the magical aspect of the story.  I guess this book is considered a historical fantasy, but it felt so much more like a historical book than a fantasy.  The magical aspect isn't even introduced until halfway through the story, and it seemed very out of place.  Plus, the ending is tied up way too easily thanks to the magic.  It just wasn't very satisfying.

Faces of the Dead is a decent, entertaining, and very quick read.  The detailed setting and strong characters add life to the story, but it was too short and jumbled for me to really love it.  Still, I'll keep my eye out for more of Weyn's books.

*I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thanks!

My rating:  3 out of 5 stars

~ Kaitlyn

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