When Marie-Therese, daughter of Marie Antoinette, slips into the streets of Paris at the height of the French Revolution, she finds a world much darker than what she's ever known.
When Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France learns of the powerful rebellion sweeping her country, the sheltered princess is determined to see the revolution for herself. Switching places with a chambermaid, the princess sneaks out of the safety of the royal palace and into the heart of a city in strife.
Soon the princess is brushing shoulders with revolutionaries and activists. One boy in particular, Henri, befriends her and has her questioning the only life she's known. When the princess returns to the palace one night to find an angry mob storming its walls, she's forced into hiding in Paris. Henri brings her to the workshop of one Mademoiselle Grosholtz, whose wax figures seem to bring the famous back from the dead, and who looks at Marie-Thérèse as if she can see all of her secrets. There, the princess quickly discovers there's much more to the outside world - and to the mysterious woman's wax figures - than meets the eye.
Faces of the Dead is a story filled with historical figures that takes place at the height of the French Revolution (1789 to 1799), or should I say, the Reign of Terror? During this time, The Revolutionary Tribunal summarily condemned thousands of people, including the King and Queen of France, to death by the guillotine, while mobs beat other victims to death. Faces of Death is told in the first POV by Marie Thérèse Charlotte.
Marie Thérèse Charlotte of France (19 December 1778 – 19 October 1851) was the real life daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. We see things through the eyes of a fairly innocent girl who didn't know the meaning of living in poverty. She didn't know that her "people" were struggling to survive while she had everything spoon fed to her. What she thought she had was a loving family, and best friend that would survive anything. She quickly learned otherwise and faced many difficult challenges along the way.
Faces of the Dead takes on an interesting theory that Marie-Thérèse actually escaped from imprisonment during the French Revolution, and swapped identities with her best friend Ernestine de Lambriquet, whom the internet reports may have been Henry XVI's illegitimate daughter with a chambermaid. Weyn actually twists her own story so that Marie and Ernestine actually switched much earlier in time, and continued to do so numerous times at the risk of both girls lives. She states that the girls look so much alike, that Ernestine could have been Marie-Thérèse's doppelganger.
Pretending to be Ernestine, Marie makes her way through the streets of Paris, and truly beholds what her fellow "citizens" are facing and watches as the revolution grows in strength and numbers. As her time away from her family continues, Marie encounters a boy named Henri whom she becomes attached to. She learns about what living on the streets really means, and going without food, and water that she took for granted. She even becomes a participant in the Revolution in the most gruesome way possible while continuing to hide her real identity. She also watches the remarkable Anna Marie Grosholtz as she creates real life figures with wax.
Faces of the Dead is a story that is totally and absolutely made up, or is it? The reality is that the people of France suffered from the so called revolutionaries (who would be called terrorists today because of their actions) and the killing of supposed royal sympathizers who were really innocents by any means including the Guillotine. Weyn has done an impressive job in researching her subject, and alludes to events that have recently occurred in Germany in determining where Marie was actually buried, and whether or not the supposed switch was actually made permanent by the girls themselves. Will we ever truly know if Marie and Ernestine actually switched? I would love to know!
Although Faces of the Dead is a short novel in comparison to others of this genre, it manages to flow smoothly, and brings in characters like Josephine & Napoleon Bonaparte, and Madame Tussaud who created life like characters made from wax. I would say to you that except for Henri, who really doesn't exist in historical notes, this story is definitely entertaining, and makes you think of the possibilities if this switch really did occur.
I don't believe that anything I say in this review is spoiler-y. I believe that if High School students have been taught proper US & European history as it actually happened, and not deviated by those who want to change reality because of THEIR political leanings, then they will understand that the American Revolution was the catalyst for what happened in France. Americans like Jefferson and Franklin were considered heroes by the French people. The only difference between revolutions was that American's never used the Guillotine to kill fellow citizens with. I challenge teachers to actually teach the truth, and not what they want people to believe.
Author: Suzanne Weyn
Title: Faces of the Dead
Published by: Scholastic Press
Released: August 26, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: E-Book 208 pages