Two women, rival queens, rule kingdoms that lie side by side. Over the course of decades, they scheme and intrigue and fight both to keep their crowns and to take away the other’s. One will die peacefully, the other violently, and from their actions a dynasty will come to an end.
The Dark Queens follows the lives of Brunhild and Fredegund, who were Frankish queens during the 500s. They had extremely disparate origins, with one starting as a Spanish princess and the other as a palace slave, but they both rose high and became powerful. Despite the impact of their actions and their unique position as dual female rulers in the medieval era, they have been mostly forgotten today. In this book, the author narrates their tale. I found the numerous cast and the convoluted politics relatively simple to follow, which speaks to what a good job the author did of breaking down the complicated subject matter. The historical figures were conjured up vividly throughout, often with just a few lines.
However, I did think the book wavered at times on its form. Though this is narrative nonfiction, I often found the writing straying toward the drier side of the spectrum, which made me feel sometimes that I was veering into textbook reading. I also wish we spent more time with the titular queens, as it almost felt that they got lost in the shuffle that is dynastic politics at times.
Overall an intriguing read on a subject I had never heard of, illuminating darkened corners of history.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is my honest and voluntary review.