Goddess – Kelly Gardiner
Fourth Estate, 2014
Julie d’Aubigny is born in the shadow of greatness. Growing up in Versailles, her father the chevalier gives her the only upbringing he knows: training her to fight and shoot and ride, unintentionally ensuring that she will never live by the boundaries other women unquestioningly obey. As she grows older, Julie fixes her sights beyond the Sun King’s palace to a life in the opera. Her determination will lead her across France, into duels and love affairs, glory and heartbreak. Paris won’t know what’s hit it.
The fact that Julie d’Aubigny actually lived and the events of this book are based on her actual life is a fact that I now treasure. A more or less openly bisexual and possibly genderqueer 17th century hell-raiser with a wicked sword-arm and a goddess’s voice, she is the definition of an action heroine – not always kind, not always likeable, but fiercely independent, incredibly talented and deeply, fascinatingly flawed. The structure Gardiner chose is quite episodic and some sections could have used fleshing out; I’d have loved more detail about Julie’s experiences and the glittering, vicious world she inhabited. The story is well woven, however, making the extraordinary events consistent and believable. Someone needs to write Julie into an episode of Doctor Who, she’d make an amazing companion.