Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature: Best Novel winner (1994).
The magic of history and the enchantment of an extraordinary story come together in this novel of beguiling romance and dazzling revelation. Eighteenth-century France is the setting – a time and a place where age-old superstitions shadow an age of enlightenment, where the minuet of aristocratic life is deaf to the approaching drumbeats of revolution, where elegance masks depravity and licentiousness makes mockery of love. Against this background, Berthe Duvet, maid to Adele du Fourchet, later Mme la duchesse de Malvoeux, tells her tale of a doomed society and of a family seeking to break a terrible curse.
Berthe is an orphan child brought up in the green rooms of the Paris theatre when she enters the service of the beautiful young girl who is to be her lifelong mistress and charge. Her sharp eyes and sharper tongue record the intrigues and amours of a world of privilege and perversity, in which she and Adele must come of age in very different ways. Then, with Adele's marriage to the mysterious duc de Malvoeux, Berthe takes us to a place a world away from the Paris of Rousseau, du Barry and de Sade – the ducal chateau Beauxpres, hidden deep in the primitive Jura mountains of France, wolf-haunted, rooted in the memory of blood.
Into this realm of legends and dark sorceries comes a scorned beggar with a fearful prophecy. Unless the House of Malvoeux finds and possesses a fabulous porcelain dove, the noble family faces madness and ruin. Yet even as the quest for the dove begins, the members of the family follow their own destinies and desires. The duc retreats to his aviary; the duchesse into parties and flirtations. One son heeds the call of God; another is tempted by Satanic sensuality. And a daughter grows up to be both rebel and savior of the family, fulfilling the quest even as the storm of the French Revolution breaks.
Delia Sherman is the author of two middle grade novels, Changeling and The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen. Her short stories for younger readers have appeared in numerous anthologies. She is also the author of a number of novels for adults as well as the co-editor of two Interfictions anthologies, among others. Delia Sherman lives in NYC.