The Oracle Glass by Judith Merkle Riley
What a pleasure it was to read a well-written book. I looked forward to each evening, when I could steal a few minutes to read. However, if you can, this book deserves more than a few minutes an evening. You will instantly fall into the story and become captivated by Genevieve, a teenage girl who dressed as a 150 year-old widow. How she came to be in that position, and how she saved the king are the makings of a great story.
In the excesses of the Sun King’s court, she who was mistress to King Louis XIV reigned supreme. Genevieve was the younger sister to beautiful Marie-Angelique, the angel in the window. She was also the daughter of the Madame Pasquier, whose husband fell out of favour with the king’s exchequer, and onto reduced means. Madame Pasquier’s main ambition was to have her eldest daughter married to someone with both money and rank, so that her stature would return. Madame Pasquier was also interested in the money that she believed her husband had hidden outside of the country, and would do anything to get her hands on it. Thus, Madame Pasquier turned to La Voisin for help with her future, and in keeping her beauty.
During the reign of the Sun King, fortune-telling was not a crime... in fact, it was good business. There were webs of witches in Paris that catered to the wealthy and privileged. One of the most powerful of the witches was La Voison, the Shadow Queen, who basically controlled a corporation of poisoners, abortionists, fortune-tellers, and other persons who lived in the shadow world. La Voisin also offered franchises, as it were, into her shadow world. With contracts and business-like acumen, she became very wealthy from the success of others.
Genevieve had two strikes against her in this world of beauty and perfection. The first reason was that she was born with a malformed foot. The second was that she was raised as a philosopher by her father. Genevieve, being her father’s favourite, and was taught the Greeks and Romans, and how Reason rules the world. However, she was a typical teenage girl, who like any teenage girl in any century, wanted to be loved by the beautiful poet who mooned over her sister. Events changed Genevieve’s world and put her in the path of La Voisin, who saw the great income potential in the young girl and her ability to see futures in a bowl of still water.
Without giving away too much of the story, Genevieve became a strong person in her own right. She was a fascination at the court of the Sun King, and desired by all to have their fortune told. Genevieve was called upon to tell the future that was seen in her Oracle Glass. She was paid handsomely for the images she saw and interpreted them as best she could. Living as a 150 year-old widow, Genevieve earned her own living and learned much about the world.
Ms. Riley did a wonderful job of portraying this teenage girl, and how she grew up under disguise and in a time when women typically held no power. There were only a few questions left after finishing the book, but these did not detract from the story. Ms. Riley also switched from third person chapters, which told the overall story or focused on characters that were not Genevieve, or first person chapters (the majority of the novel) so that the reader got more depth of character with Genevieve’s thoughts and emotions. This aspect of the novel was very well crafted and flowed very smoothly. To be honest, I did not have any guess as to the outcome of the story until the last section of the book. This also lent to my having thoroughly enjoy the book... not knowing what would happen at the beginning of the story made the reading and discovering the story more enjoyable.