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The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots

Review

The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary Stuart has always blamed herself for her father's death. The king of Scotland, already depressed after suffering defeat in battle, dies soon after he learns he has a baby daughter, not the hoped-for son. Six days after she's born, Mary is crowned queen of Scotland.

For almost six years, she lives a happy, uncomplicated life, spending her days with her mother and her four best friends, all named Mary and nicknamed by her French mother the four Maries. But her life changes forever when she learns that she has been bound to marry the son of the king of France, at the time only four. To prepare for her future as the Queen of France, she must travel to the strange country to join the French royal family while leaving her mother behind in Scotland.

"Despite the novel's thickness and the large number of names, titles and dates that are thrown around, it's a very easy, accessible read.... [H]istory buffs, and especially fans of the Dear America series, will love THE WILD QUEEN."

As shocking as the change is, Mary attempts to live in France, soon becoming best friends with her future husband Francois, learning the language, and understanding the power struggles that exist even within the home of the royal family --- from the pressure on the queen to give birth to sons, to the power of the king's mistress. She learns to deal with the grief that comes with losing loved ones and the fear that comes when she becomes aware of attempts to end her life. At 15, she marries Francois, ready for the future. But when, barely three years later, Francois dies, Mary leaves her adopted country of France to return to Scotland for the first time in 12 years to rule as their Queen. She has no idea how difficult returning to her throne will be.

THE WILD QUEEN is an unusual YA novel because so little of it is told from the perspective of a teenager, but rather in retrospect from the perspective of a nearly middle-aged Mary, with a great deal focusing on her early childhood. Still, the tone and themes will resonate with teens: a sense of adventure and new beginnings tempered with a desire to stay with what's familiar, the feeling that you have little control over the direction your life will go while people on the outside are making, or at least manipulating, all your decisions.

Despite the novel's thickness and the large number of names, titles and dates that are thrown around, it's a very easy, accessible read. Mary is a relatable, sympathetic protagonist, and though she has many responsibilities and expectations the average teen reader doesn't, she still deals with plenty of common adolescent problems: parental expectations, crushes and the confusion they can lead to, a changing dynamic between herself and her childhood friends.

The one slightly off-putting device Carolyn Meyer uses is to put occasional reflective paragraphs between chapters to remind the reader that Mary is looking back on her life as an adult. It slows down the pace and creates a sort of disconnect for the reader. Still, history buffs, and especially fans of the Dear America series, will love THE WILD QUEEN.

Reviewed by Molly Horan on July 22, 2012

The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots
by Carolyn Meyer