The Dark Queen

The Dark Queen

4.5 80
by Susan Carroll

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From Brittany’s misty shores to the decadent splendor of Paris’s royal court, one woman must fulfill her destiny–while facing the treacherous designs of Catherine de Medici, the dark queen.

She is Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle, one of the Cheney sisters, renowned for their mystical skills and for keeping the isle secure and


From Brittany’s misty shores to the decadent splendor of Paris’s royal court, one woman must fulfill her destiny–while facing the treacherous designs of Catherine de Medici, the dark queen.

She is Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle, one of the Cheney sisters, renowned for their mystical skills and for keeping the isle secure and prosperous. But this is a time when women of ability are deemed sorceresses, when Renaissance France is torn by ruthless political intrigues, and all are held in thrall to the sinister ambitions of Queen Catherine de Medici. Then a wounded stranger arrives on Faire Isle, bearing a secret the Dark Queen will do everything in her power to possess. The only person Ariane can turn to is the comte de Renard, a nobleman with fiery determination and a past as mysterious as his own unusual gifts.

Riveting, vibrant, and breathtaking, The Dark Queen follows Ariane and Renard as they risk everything to prevent the fulfillment of a dreadful prophecy–even if they must tempt fate and their own passions.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When a wounded captain of the Navarre army arrives on Faire Isle in 1572 and calls for an audience with Daughter of the Earth (aka healer, or witch) Ariane Cheney, he provokes the wrath of the eponymous queen of France, Catherine de Medici, in this readable historical romance by the author of The Bride Finder. The captain's queen, Jeanne of Navarre, has second thoughts about marrying off her son to Catherine's daughter (a union arranged to smooth troubled Catholic-Protestant relations); the next day, she's dead. Ariane reluctantly agrees to help the captain prove that Catherine murdered Jeanne with a cursed pair of gloves, although the healer has plenty on her plate already, what with caring for her two younger sisters, the innocent Mirabelle and the conniving Gabrielle, and fending off the advances of her new neighbor, the lusty, muscular Comte de Renard. As Ariane investigates the magic gloves, the Dark Queen's soldiers prowl the island, witch hunters seek their prey, Renard woos his reluctant would-be bride with the aid of an enchanted ring and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre looms. Carroll breaks no new ground in this overlong tale, but readers in the mood for a marriage plot spiced with magic should find that this one does the trick. Agent, Andrea Cirillo. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Carroll's latest romance (The Bride Finder, 1998, etc.) fulfills the generic rules in pedestrian fashion, swinging back to a time of witchery in France on the eve of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Carroll tones down the complicated Protestant-Catholic conflict against which her fable of the highborn Cheney sisters is set. In 1572, eldest sister Ariane is "the Lady of Faire Isle" and leader of the island's "Daughters of the Earth," otherwise known as witches. The girls' mother, a famous healer, died of a broken heart when her husband was wooed away by the conniving black magic of the dowager queen, Catherine de Medici. Catherine's latest plot involves a pair of poisoned gloves she used to kill Henry of Navarre's mother. (Jeanne of Navarre had planned to call off her son's marriage to Catherine's daughter, suspecting that the truce being negotiated between the Protestants and Catholics was a ruse.) A wounded captain of Henry's Huguenot army takes refuge among the sisters at Faire Isle, holding the gloves as proof of Catherine's black artistry. This leads the "Dark Queen" to unleash her fury on the Cheney sisters. Meanwhile, Carroll employs every trick in the romance book to portray the courtship of serene-eyed Ariane by her uncouth, irresistibly virile neighbor, Comte de Renard, whose forebears were also versed in the magic arts. With a ring he blackmails her into wearing, Ariane is able to summon Renard instantly whenever she is in distress-three times during the course of the narrative. It's all utterly conventional. Our swooning, virtuous heroine is never too assertive to be invulnerable to the count's superior strength. Her rake is handily tamed. Her sisters provide patcounterpoint: One is sweet, one sour and suspicious. The prose is forgettable, and the backdrop would have been compelling only if Carroll had resisted dumbing it down for her readers. Stock characters and predictable situations, not worth revisiting in the promised sequel involving younger sister Gabrielle.
From the Publisher
“An intoxicating brew of poignant romance, turbulent history, and mesmerizing magic.”
–Karen Harper, author of The Fyre Mirror

“Utterly perfect–rich, compelling, and full of surprises. A fabulous, feminist fantasy from a masterful storyteller that’s bound to be one of the best books of the year!”
–Elizabeth Grayson, author of Moon in the Water

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:

Read an Excerpt

The Dark Queen

By Susan Carroll

Random House

Susan Carroll
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0345437969

Chapter One

The chamber lay hidden beneath the old part of the house, far from prying eyes. During Roman times, when a fortress had stood on the island, the room had been part of a catacomb of prisons, a dark place where frightened souls had been imprisoned awaiting torture and death. But that had been centuries ago.

The chains and manacles were long gone, the stone walls now lined with jars of herbs, dust-covered bottles, and books preserving knowledge forgotten by the rest of the world. The grim place had been completely transformed by feminine hands into a repository of ancient learning and a keeper of secrets. There was enough evidence stacked upon these shelves to get a woman condemned for witchcraft seven times over.

No one could have looked less like a witch than the young woman stirring the hearth's bubbling cauldron. Ariane Cheney was tall and thin, her slender form clad in a russet brown gown protected by the apron knotted round her waist.

The orange-red light of the torches imbedded in the walls flickered over her grave features; her thick chestnut hair was demurely bundled beneath a kerchief. Ariane had an unusually solemn face for a woman barely one and twenty, her pensive gray eyes seldom given to laughter, her lips rarely transformed by a smile.

She had little to smile about these days since her mother's death. Withher father still missing, that left only Ariane to protect and care for her two younger sisters. Speculation grew daily that the Chevalier Louis Cheney's grand voyage of exploration had come to disaster, that the Chevalier was either lost at sea or killed by natives on some hostile foreign shore.

Ariane gave the contents of the cauldron one final stir, then carefully ladled some of the clear liquid into a thick clay flagon. She carried it over to the long wooden worktable. The powder she had ground rested in the bottom of the iron mortar, a concoction partly gleaned from her books, partly from her own ingenuity.

Setting the flagon down, Ariane scooped out a spoonful of the powder. She hardly knew how much to use. It was a matter of guesswork. Ariane closed her eyes and sent up a silent prayer.

"Oh, please, please let this work." Opening her eyes, she carefully ladled the powder into the flagon. She watched anxiously, preparing to give the potion a stir, but she never got the chance.

The reaction was immediate and violent. The liquid began to smoke and hiss, bubble and foam. As the potion roiled over the sides of the flagon, Ariane emitted a cry of dismay. She grabbed for a cloth to check the mess, but the spitting flagon forced her to retreat.

She backed away, flinging up one arm just in time as the vessel shattered, spraying the chamber with flecks of red foam and broken pottery. An acrid haze hung over the room, a sharp stench that caused Ariane to choke and her eyes to sting with tears. She flapped her cloth to clear the air and then mopped her eyes to survey the damage.

She was not hurt, but her potion had left a scorch mark on the table and burned tiny holes in her apron. Ariane had failed.

If only Maman was here to help me, Ariane thought, The familiar ache of loss tugging at her heart. It was a wish she made a dozen times every day.

Evangeline Cheney had been a true descendent of the Daughters of the Earth, as learned in the old ways as any woman who had ever lived. She had been known as a leader among wise women, the Lady of Faire Isle, a title that had passed to Ariane, but she had never felt equal to slipping into her mother's shoes.

It had been over two years since Ariane had watched the life ebb away from the once indomitable Evangeline. Still, not a day went by that she did not miss her mother's gentle strength, the wisdom of her counsel.

Oh, Maman, Ariane thought, to be able to hear your voice again. She wondered, would it really be so dreadful, to summon her mother's spirit, just this once? She knew well what her mother's answer to that question would have been. Evangeline Cheney had taught her three daughters many marvelous things, but she had solemnly adjured them against any meddling with dark magic.

Ariane forced her attention back to the mess she had made of her workshop. She had most of the broken pottery picked up when she realized that someone was shifting the trap door that concealed the way down to the hidden chamber.


Gabrielle's voice floated down to her from the regions above. Ariane had just enough time to dump the shards of pottery into the ash bin before her sister came down the twisting stone stair with all the air of a grand duchess about to make her curtsy at the royal court.

The girl had been cutting and refitting one of her old gowns again in an effort to appear more fashionable. What had once been a sweet and simple frock had been dyed carnelian and trimmed in a rich pattern of gold embroidery. The full skirts flared out over a farthingale and opened in the front to reveal a cream-colored underskirt frothing with lace. But it was the bodice Ariane eyed with misgiving, cut too low and displaying far too much of Gabrielle's generous bosom.

As she descended the stairs, Gabrielle lifted her skirts, managing to keep the gown clear of any stray dust with one elegant twitch of her hand. Her hair was of fairest gold, her face noted for its alabaster complexion, full red lips, and jewel-blue eyes.

She was so perfectly lovely that it often made Ariane's heart ache to look at her. Perhaps because she missed the days when Gabrielle had not been quite so concerned about her appearance, when her little sister had torn about Faire Isle barefoot, her curls in a flyaway tangle, a smudge of paint on her cheek, as she had demanded a fresh canvas to work upon. Her hands had been callused, her nails broken from her latest effort at sculpting.

Now Gabrielle's hands were soft, her nails perfectly manicured. It was her eyes that seemed in danger of turning hard and brittle.

"Ah, there you are. I have been looking for you everywhere," she complained. Gabrielle rarely visited the hidden workshop and Ariane was disturbed to realize that she had not made any effort to close the concealing door above them.

"Gabrielle, I do trust that you remember this is supposed to be a secret room."

"It is not as if all our servants don't know that the room is here and that we are witches."

When Ariane frowned at her, Gabrielle rolled her eyes and amended, "Oh, pardon me, I forgot. Witches is a bad word. I should have said wise women."

"And what about any chance visitor?" Ariane demanded.

"There is no one here. Not unless you count your noble suitor."

"What! Renard is here?" Ever since Ariane had awakened that morning to discover the mist burned off the island, she had feared his return.

"Just teasing," Gabrielle grinned.

Ariane recovered her breath. "Blast you, Gabrielle. It is nothing to jest about. You know I have been dreading the comte's return."

"Ah, well, if you will persist in rescuing these stray men--"

"He was lost in the woods. All I did was point him to the right path," Ariane retorted. The first time she had met Renard was on the mainland and he hadn't seemed frightening or intimidating, only a man who had lost his way in the woods. The Deauville forest covered many acres and could be a treacherous place, full of wild boar and the occasional wolf. Ariane had simply led him back to safety.

She had fully expected that to be the end of the matter, never dreaming that the next time she saw Renard, he would coolly inform her that he had selected her to be his comtesse and he was arranging their wedding. Ariane had puzzled over Renard's actions so much, it threatened to bring a permanent crease between her eyes.

Gabrielle noticed the familiar frown gathering on Ariane's brow. "Oh, do stop worrying, Ariane. After the wedding gift we sent Monsieur le Comte--"

"The gift you sent," Ariane corrected. "You should not have done it, Gabrielle. I don't think it was wise to insult the comte."

"Pooh! Insults are the only way to be rid of a man as overbearing as Renard. I doubt he'll trouble you again."

Gabrielle's prank of the straw bride might have temporarily forestalled the comte, but Ariane feared that Renard, like the Deauvilles before him, was not a man to be easily defied.

Ariane turned to clean up the rest of the potion spattered across the table. As it cooled, it turned darker, assuming the appearance of spilled blood.

Gabrielle sashayed around Ariane, glancing down at the mess and wrinkling her nose. "What in the name of all the saints have you been doing down here?"

"Nothing of any success. I was trying to develop a potion to add to the soil and hopefully double our grain crop this year."

"I thought Maman said we should never attempt to perform black magic."

"This is science," Ariane lifted the sopping rag and tossed it into the dustbin. Gabrielle peered at the scorch mark on the table.

"It looks to me like the kind of science that destroys crops instead of growing them."

"I don't seem able to get the formula right, but I have to do something to generate more funds."

Funds that were badly needed to pay off the debts their father had left and insure that her sisters had dowries if Papa did not return. But that was not something that ever concerned Gabrielle.

She shrugged. "Why don't you try turning lead into gold instead of attempting to burn the house down?"

Ariane glared. Repenting of her teasing, Gabrielle sidled closer to wrap her arm around Ariane's shoulders and give her a light hug.

"Your fretting is going to give you permanent wrinkles. I have told you before, a woman's fortune is in her face. You would be better off trying to develop some new skin creams. I could certainly use a new perfume."

"Another perfume is the last thing you need, Gabrielle. I remember a time when you were far more interested in concocting new shades of color for your palette."

Excerpted from The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Dark Queen 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 78 reviews.
Cappi More than 1 year ago
I am a huge fan of historical fiction, so I kind of knew what to expect...colorful imagery, handsome men, and an astromoical castrophy. Knowing all of that, this book wowed me. It had everything a good book should have, love,sex,despair,action,believable dialog. When you finish a book and are sad that it is over, that is the sign of a great book. I literally started back at page 1 after finishing the last page.
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
It tells the story of three sisters, the eldest, Ariane, who has inherited the Faire Isle, struggles with her position as Lady of Faire Isle, a rather stubborn suitor that doesn't take no for an answer, two sisters who have issues of their own, a father who hasn't come back yet, and a dark threatening Queen Catherine who plots from afar. There is enough history and politics here to keep you very intrigued. France is in religious upheaval, Queen Catherine plots from behind the scenes and of course, you have witch hunters. At first, I was a little skeptical as the book certainly starts off looking like a bodice ripping romance novel. Guy wants girl, girl can't stand him, guy gets persistent..yeah you get the usual romance plot idea. However Susan Carroll adds a good amount of magic (magic being more of a wise woman sense not your fantastical kind..well sort of) and political plotting to keep you distracted enough to give the book a fair chance if you're not a romance novel fan (like I am). There is a good amount of everything here in this book. Romance, action, fantasy, intrigue, and drama. I wouldn't say there is much fantasy in it. Although the younger sister does talk to animals so I suppose you could say that's fantasy wouldn't you? In any case, there is enough of all the genres mentioned previously to keep you satisfied. Renard and Ariane are a couple that just "look" good together. I think it's their personalities that make them both suit each other so well that you can't help but just read on and hope they'll work out their differences for that lovely happy ending. Each of the Cheney sisters have a romantic involvement, however that's as far as I'll go without going too much into detail. It's Gabrielle I feel for the most though. As she went through a lot as explained in the beginning of the story. There is an explicit scene or two (romance wise) but nothing to really be bothered about it. Action wise, I don't really see too many gory details but I have to admit the mysogyny displayed in Le Vis just makes you want to wring his neck until it breaks like a chicken. However I'm sure the sort of behavior displayed by the witch hunter is probably very real and frightening and it makes you learn how much people went through just because they were perceived as different. There will be other books following after this and I will be picking them up. There are some unanswered questions I would like answered! I will definitely be reading the second book (The Courtesan) which will be featuring Gabrielle's story. This is a book to pick up if you're wanting a book with a little bit of everything but if you're a romance lover yes, grab it. Renard and Ariane are perfect.
AnetteTepesDracula More than 1 year ago
I first found this book on Amazon and was charmed by the character of Renard who was delightfully stubborn, pigheaded, and downright seductive. He was very entertaining and how he and Ariane Cheney (the heroine) interacted with each other was hilarious at times due to how he frustrated her so much by constantly dogging her to marry him. I personally loved the take on witches that Mrs. Carroll took. The "Daughters of the Earth" were the modern sense of witches and pagans: kind, righteous, and virtuous women young and old. I personally can't wait to read the next book and I hope that the series continues strong.
DGPerez More than 1 year ago
This story is a great combination of romance, history, and thrill. The characters are well developed and the plot is intriguing. Somehow the story seems to fit quite well into that point in history. This book is found in the Literature section, but I find it to be more of a romance novel with a higher emphasis to history than strictly to the relationships. All in all, I liked it enough to read the rest of the series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was an excellent read. It was very romantic but in a strange quirky kind of way. it was very good though and i cant wait to read the other 2 books in the Trilogy, the Courtesean and the Rose Without a Thorn.
ReaderMarie More than 1 year ago
This book read like a fairy tale to me. I loved the romance between Ariane and Renard. Great plot twists and history.
Sapph0 More than 1 year ago
I read this book once before, but too long to not read it again before going through the whole trilogy, and it is just as wonderful--if not more so--as the first time. To center around Ariane and her three sisters, Susan Carroll weaves a very realistic portrait of family life and the behavioral ethics of each of them considering the way their family stands at the moment the story takes place, and the circumstances they have been through. Catherine de Medici, as seen here, is an incredibly enigmatic (despite who she is in the book) individual, interesting to browse upon as one goes through the motions of the book, and engaging. The Dark Queen certainly makes the whole work all the more worthy of being read--for despite the other characters being fantastic, and the book itself being able to survive without the dowager queen of France, she makes the entire thing even better. Renard is magnificent, and his interactions with Touissant are endearing and touching in contrast to the passionate (though quietly at first) and spell-binding (truly, to me) undertakings had with Ariane. Seeing the ways of Gabrielle and Remy in this first book, it paves the way perfectly for the second installment (which I'm currently reading) in the series. This is certainly a book worth reading not once, but twice!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Dark Queen is the first novel in the Dark Queen Trilogy which follows the adventures of the Cheney sisters as they battle Queen Catherine de Medici of France. In this first novel Ariane Cheney has become the new Lady of Faire Isle after the death of her mother. All of the Cheney women are wise women or wicthes, but Ariane will only use her power to heal. It is in her position as a healer that will bring on the wrath of the Dark Queen when an injured furgitive comes to Faire Isle and ask for her help. At the same time Ariane is being persued by a determined suitor who is hiding secrets of his own. The Dark Queen is filled with suspence and intrigue from the first page.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was really a wonderful book! At times it may seem a bit dark, but it's really not a book like that. It's all around great!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story line and characters were phenominal! But I will admit that in the beginning I thought that that magic aspect was going to ruin the novel but once I got into it, it only made the story better. I couldn't put it down. I read it in 2 1/2 days and went straight onto The Courtesan.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Dark Queen, written by Susan Carroll, tells of a destined love between the Lady of Faire Isle and the Comte de Renard. With everything inbetween from witch hunters to romance, Carroll gives you just enough to make you smile, or grasp onto the edge of your seat, but all the while she leaves you craving for more. This story was told beautifully- the organization and unfolding was delightful. I WANT MORE!!!...and then some...
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I felt a conection with each of the characters. I fell in love with Justice (Renard). I read it to sleep. I read the book till it fell upart from wear and tare. It is the best book I have ever read. I did not want it to end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a major reader and I'm always looking for new books and authors. When I was walking by a shelf at mt local bookstore the cover caught my attention. Usually, I have found, books with flashy covers content is less than satisfactory, but I decide to give it a try. And I an whole heartedly glad I did. The lush backround and well written characters (Renard, Miri, Gabrielle, Remy, and Ariane herself)give the book a realistic quality that draws you into it and in the end you find that you are attached to the book and the characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Usually I enjoy more accurate historical fiction. Yet I have read everything I can get my hands on by this author. She adds a mystical touch to her writing which makes is very hard to put down. I can't wait for the Silver Rose!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very few of the books that I would highly recommend or gkive all 5/5 stars, a diamond in the rough, a definate page turner that will leave you wishing all books were this intricatly woven with a twist that will leave you gaping & feeling as if you are the actual character herself. AMAZING book, go get it or borrow it from me!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read, however I expected more for the $$$ paid
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its cute fairy tale type of book about 3 sisters with some witch power,s the older one Adriane is struggling with accepting role of the Lady of Fair Isle after her mother dies, taking care of her younger sisters and fighting off request of her persistent suitor Renard to marry him. Then as the story develops you learn a little about some French history and politics, as well as infamous Catherine De Medici (Dark Queen) and her evil magic. Book includes some romance, action, fantasy, intrigue, and drama. It's ok read I lost interest few times while reading it but I managed to finish it. I might try to get her second book Courtesan to see if its a little more thrilling.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Somebody go to paper 2 result and say lilyfangs locked out and you need to go to weekly warrior 1 and 2 result OR ELSE!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Evil eye all results.