review: in the shadow of the sun by e.m. castellan

“We were royals. Our happiness was irrelevant.”

In the Shadow of the Sun, E.M. Castellan

It’s 1661 in Paris, and magicians thrill nobles with enchanting illusions. Exiled in France, 17-year-old Henriette of England wishes she could use her magic to gain entry at court. Instead, her plan is to hide her magical talents, and accept an arranged marriage to the French king’s younger brother.

Henriette soon realizes her fiancé prefers the company of young men to hers, and court magicians turn up killed by a mysterious sorcerer who uses forbidden magic. When an accident forces Henriette to reveal her uniquely powerful gift for enchantments to Louis, he asks for her help: she alone can defeat the dark magician threatening his authority and aid his own plans to build the new, enchanted seat of his power – the Palace of Versailles.


rep: bi polyamorous li, mlm relationship

cw: death, torture

In the Shadow of the Sun
E.M. Castellan
Feiwel & Friends
352 pages

This book was, surprisingly, good – not that I wasn’t expecting it from the blurb, but I didn’t expect to be that invested.

I’m torn between 3.5 and 4-stars ratings. I have so many thoughts about In the Shadow of the Sun and I hope my review will give a clear view of them all.

In the Shadow of the Sun‘s story takes place at the Sun King’s court the summer he became a monarque absolu — but there is a twist; this book is set in an alternative universe, where magic is common, and magiciens needs a Source (i.e. someone with power within them, while magiciens are just the spell weaver and bear no magic).

I liked the universe, the French court, and all these names I knew mixed with magic, and magiciens, and a fantasy setting. I give a maaajor thumb-up to the author for actually not butchering my native language. France, and in particular seventeenth-century France, became so popular with foreign writers lately, but when reading those books, it feels like they don’t know the mere basics of french language, and just put words like they’d do in an English sentence, without really caring about the word’s genre, nature, or just basic grammatical rules — which is extremely frustrating, to not say angering, as a french reader. So imagine my surprise, which quickly turned in a positive feeling, to read french words, french idioms, french sentences… correctly! Like, yes, this is french, this is correct, this is not just a fantasy from the author. I think it helped E.M Castellan to have lived in France herself, nonetheless, I want to thank and congratulate her for respecting my language.

All characters, except for one or two, are real people. Henriette, Louis the Sun King, his brother Philippe, the ladies-in-waiting… Their relationships are also real, as the events. E.M Castellan did a wonderful work of research, twisting reality where History allowed her without denaturing it all. I wasn’t expecting this level of precision, and I was pleasantly surprised. Also major thumb-up.

Then, let’s dwell more into the book itself. It is young adult fiction, which I like, but do not read that much. Often, the characters are very naive, or too powerful, which frequently bother me. While Henriette’s — the main character — magic is one of the most powerful in the country, it is counterbalanced with poor health, which stops her from doing too much. The English princess is seventeen and I was afraid to read a character too young, too naive, as seventeen-year-old girls are expected to be. Yet, I read a character with several layers, and soon I forgot about her young age. It didn’t bother me. Henriette is a girl who lost everything when her father, the king of England, was dethroned by his parliament, and she grew up in a french convent away from her native land. At seventeen-year-old she is to marry the Sun King’s brother and heir to his throne, Philippe d’Orléans, as her brother took back the English throne a few years back, giving her access again to a royal title. Yet, Henriette grew up far from those courts, and it helped to make her a sweet, simple girl. She does not give in into gossips, hypocritical friendship, which are usual, shallow habits at court… She is a welcome light breeze in this mad world.

Expect a love-triangle (square? pentagon?). Like the author herself said, this summer of 1661 is a time of seduction and pleasure for the French court. Crushes appear, marriage blooms, liaisons are developed… Everyone is beautiful and everyone desires everyone. It disturbed me a little, let’s say in the first third of the book, as the romance plot took over the political/magical plot. It was a whirlwind of love stories and it was a lot. But when those relationships settled, they settled for good, and the political/magical plot took over again. Also, one of the major interest is a bisexual polyamorous man in two relationships, one with another man, the other with a woman.

Note : 3.5 sur 5.

So yeah, I found myself invested in this story. I read it in three days, which is an exploit from me, ha! Although I can’t shelve In the Shadow of the Sun as a year favorite, it is definitely a good read, far more than I expected it to be, and I recommend it to all those who like fantasy ya, french frivolous court, correctly written french language and magical/political plots. And now, I am impatiently waiting for book two… (and also, can we talk about the cover?? s t u n n i n g)

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