Review: The Barefoot Queen by Ildefonso Falcones

21423574Title: The Barefoot Queen

Author: Ildefonso Falcones

Rating: DNF

I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.

I’m pretty sure this is the first time I have ever DNF’d a book I took on for review. I don’t DNF much in general, and I take reviewing seriously and think I should give every book a full shot, but I reached a point in this novel where I just couldn’t deal any more.

Set in mid-18th century Seville and Madrid, The Barefoot Queen follows Caridad, a former Cuban slave who falls in with a community of gypsies, and Milagros, Ana, and Melchor, the gypsy family who are connected with her.

Terrible things happen in this book. I regularly read crime fiction, and fantasy epics where violence is de rigueur, and I’m usually not affected. But early on during this book, I wrote endless parade of misery in my notes. And endless it was. The characters were thrown into one horrible situation after another. Rape and murder and prison and starvation and humiliation. I made it to page 478 (of 601). I put in a two week reading investment, and I fully intended to finish. And then something happened that just made me say, “Nope. Done.” In over four hundred pages, the characters were constantly beaten down, and whenever anyone got a little win, it was viciously taken away with something even more violent. When I reached my last straw, I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The thing about it is though, the book really isn’t bad. The writing is quite lovely, despite a lot of historical infodumps. The scope is epic (it somewhat reminded me of Les Miserables) The characters were interesting. I was fascinated by the gypsy culture. Caridad is slow to develop, but I really started to like her towards the middle of the book. But, historically accurate or not, I could not stand the endless parade of misery. I didn’t foresee it ever changing, and so I just had to stop.

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