Puhak presents a vivid picture of how [the queens] skillfully preserved their lives, their power and their families ... History readers will be enthralled ... In this engrossing history, two queens who engage in the cutthroat world of statecraft at the dawn of the Middle Ages.
... brigns this period to life. That [Puhak] should choose to approach the Merovingians through the lens of two extraordinary women is entirely appropriate ... Puhak has constructed a detailed account of the two queens' lives and times. Inevitably, she has had to fill in certain blanks, and and specialists may balk at some of the inferences. Nevertheless, the resulting narrative manages to be both gripping and sympathetic without losing sight of the complexities of the era (and its sources) ... In the end, it's the sheer human drama that shines through most powerfully in this book. I was gripped from start to finish ... Fredegund and Brunhild were clearly extraordinary women. In Puhak, they have finally found a worthy champion.
One of the book’s aims is to recover a sense of the women’s lived experience, and the author makes strong use of vivid sensory details ... While Puhak works carefully with the few contemporary sources available, she necessarily speculates to allow readers a possible glimpse into the emotional lives of the two queens. This means frequent use of the conditional tense ... For some sticklers, this imaginative technique may grate ... Overall, however, The Dark Queens succeeds in illuminating both the lives and the political significance of Brunhild and Fredegund, despite the many efforts to suppress their deeds. Fans of historical narrative...will find enjoyment here, as well as a new perspective on the forces that shaped this tumultuous era.
Using primary sources, Puhak attempts to hack through the legends to uncover the truth. In doing so, she uncovers a story that is more thrilling and stranger than any fiction ... attempts not only to tell the true story of Brunhild and Fredegund, but also to examine exactly why they came to be regarded as the model of the wicked stepmother or evil queen. In doing so, it walks a sometimes fine line between academic text and narrative nonfiction, though Puhak handles this deftly. She also handles an enormous cast and some very complex politics with aplomb, keeping the story moving at a breakneck pace without ever losing sight of her subjects ... This is a book that will appeal not only to those with an interest in the Middle Ages, but anyone who loves the cut-and-thrust of court politics and ambition laid bare.
Puhak pulls off a singularly difficult feat...The critically acclaimed poet and writer manages to bring to life two women whose stories have genuinely been obscured by time and propaganda and polish them off, revealing the gleaming individuals beneath. She pushes aside the myth and theological agenda surrounding early medieval chronicles to create realistic and compelling stories of Merovingian queens Fredegund and Brunhild ... In doing so, Puhak avoids the all-too-tempting trap of smothering their stories in dry facts or what-ifs and explanations that we don’t really know what happened. On the flip side, she doesn’t make too many massive leaps in logic, crediting her subjects with remarkable achievements but explaining what it is about these people and their extraordinary world that made their successes and failures possible ... an intriguing look at a little-known period in history and is more than deserving of a wide readership.
Puhak’s engaging, chronological account creates detailed profiles of these sisters-in-law ... Undaunted by scattered, often conflicting primary sources and virtually nonexistent popular-culture referrals, Puhak painstakingly fills in political, religious, and social context ... She is careful to distinguish between fact and speculation and readily identifies gaps in historical chronicles. A final chapter addresses how male archivists attempted to erase both Brunhild and Fredegund, even as recent archaeological discoveries increasingly attest to their influence. This is a fast-paced and intriguing account of two remarkable women who deftly subverted the medieval patriarchy.
Murders, kidnappings, perilous escapes, suicide missions, poisoned knives, marriage plots, witchcraft allegations: This book has them all ... Puhak doesn’t pretend these women weren’t ruthless in their pursuit of power, but she also acknowledges the misogynist social and political context that shaped them. Most of all, The Dark Queens demonstrates that Brunhild’s and Fredegund’s names deserve to be in the historical annals as much as any king’s.
Puhak takes the audience deep into the lives of these ruling women and shows how they were both capable and skilled as they climbed to the height of their power. They reigned during an era of which there is limited historical record; Puhak contends that this made it easy for the queens’ adversaries to reduce their memory to crude misogynistic stereotypes that encouraged the populace to fear women with power ... A compelling read for those with an interest in early medieval European history, Merovingian history, and women in power.
A lyrical and astute assessment of the political maneuvers, battlefield strategies, and resilience of medieval queens and rivals Fredegund and Brunhild ... Puhak skillfully draws on contemporaneous sources, including letters, poems, and a vividly told yet obviously biased account by Brunhild’s devoted ally, Bishop Gregory of Tours, to create her thrilling history. The resulting is deeply fascinating portrait of the early Middle Ages that vigorously reclaims two powerhouse women from obscurity.
Drawing heavily on primary sources, Puhak creates a richly detailed tapestry depicting a volatile, turbulent age ... Puhak takes a sympathetic view of their plights: widowhood that might relegate them to life in a convent; the death of children from illness or foul play; and their physical vulnerability as women. Her brisk narrative rescues two significant figures from misogynist historians who, in perpetuating rumors and scandals, have diminished their significance ... Lively, well-researched history focused on powerful women.