The Dark Queens

The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World

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Pub Date 22 Feb 2022 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2022
Bloomsbury USA, Bloomsbury Publishing

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The remarkable, little-known story of two trailblazing women in the Early Middle Ages who wielded immense power, only to be vilified for daring to rule.

Brunhild was a foreign princess, raised to be married off for the sake of alliance-building. Her sister-in-law Fredegund started out as a lowly palace slave. And yet-in 6th-century Merovingian France, where women were excluded from noble succession and royal politics was a blood sport-these two iron-willed strategists reigned over vast realms, changing the face of Europe.

The two queens commanded armies and negotiated with kings and popes. They formed coalitions and broke them, mothered children and lost them. They fought a decades-long civil war-against each other. With ingenuity and skill, they battled to stay alive in the game of statecraft, and in the process laid the foundations of what would one day be Charlemagne's empire. Yet after the queens' deaths-one gentle, the other horrific-their stories were rewritten, their names consigned to slander and legend.

In The Dark Queens, award-winning writer Shelley Puhak sets the record straight. She resurrects two very real women in all their complexity, painting a richly detailed portrait of an unfamiliar time and striking at the roots of some of our culture's stubbornest myths about female power. The Dark Queens offers proof that the relationships between women can transform the world.

Shelley Puhak is a critically acclaimed poet and writer whose work has appeared in the Atlantic, Lapham’s Quarterly, Teen Vogue, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. Her essays have been included in The Best American Travel Writing and selected as Notables in four consecutive editions of The Best American Essays. She is the author of of two books of poetry, most recently Guinevere in Baltimore, winner of the Anthony Hecht Prize. The Dark Queens is her nonfiction debut. She lives in Maryland.

The remarkable, little-known story of two trailblazing women in the Early Middle Ages who wielded immense power, only to be vilified for daring to rule.

Brunhild was a foreign princess, raised to be...

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ISBN 9781635574913
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Featured Reviews

The Dark Queens by Shelley Puhak is an excellent nonfiction that gives the historical account of two formidable women in their own right, ahead of their time, and finally given a voice of their own.

Let me first just say that the amount of research and time placed into this book is just stunning. I had never heard of either of these women before picking up this book, and now after having finished, I can admit how much I truly learned.

The author shines a light on two women of history: Queen Brunhild and Queen Fredegund. Both fascinating women respectively. Both women before their time and also flawed in their own ways.
I found not only their existence during the late 500s to early 600s (in Brunhild’s case), but also their parts played in history, their feud, and their downfalls.

Some of their actions impressive and brave, others reckless and somewhat petty. The author paints a vivid and honest portrait of these influential women that have somehow been brushed aside, and brings their stores to the forefront, blemishes and all.

5/5 stars

Thank you NG and Bloomsbury USA for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 2/22/22.

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How have I gone 25 years of my life without knowing about Fredegund and Brunhild?? These women were amazing! Not only accomplishing things unheard of for women in their time (and for a thousand years or more after them) but also influencing societies up to today. We can find hints of them in everything from fairy tales to Game of Thrones. Yet few of us would recognize their names.

Absolutely 10/10. I wish I had learned about these women in school!

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