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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 the sixth-century Merovingian Empire, 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.

The Dark Queens sets the record straight, resurrecting 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.


"Lyrical and astute...a deeply fascinating portrait of the early Middle Ages that vigorously reclaims two powerhouse women from obscurity."

PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY (starred review)

“I was gripped from start to finish... Fredegund and Brunhild were clearly extraordinary women. In Puhak, they have finally found a worthy champion.”


"A powerful feminist history perfect for Game of Thrones fans."


"An eventful plot, entertaining style and historical credibility...immensely entertaining."


“Murders, kidnappings, perilous escapes, suicide missions, poisoned knives, marriage plots, witchcraft allegations: This book has them all.”



"A richly detailed tapestry depicting a volatile, turbulent age...Lively, well-researched history focused on powerful women."



"Puhak pulls off a singularly difficult feat...bring[ing] to life two women whose stories have genuinely been obscured by time and propaganda."



"This is medieval history at its most fun. Game of Thrones, eat your heart out!"




“Queen Brunhild and Queen Fredegund are restored to center stage...History readers will be enthralled.”



“A fast-paced and intriguing account of two remarkable women who deftly managed to subvert the medieval patriarchy.”



"Puhak takes the audience deep into the lives of these ruling women...A compelling read." 



"A story that is more thrilling and stranger than any fiction."




“An astounding history...[and] a fascinating read." 





"A well-researched and well-told epic history...that brings these courageous, flawed, and ruthless rulers and their distant times back to life."  


―MARGO LEE SHETTERLY, New York Times-bestselling author of Hidden Figures 


"A remarkable piece of detective work, by turns enlightening and shocking. Anyone who thought that medieval queens spent their time sewing and sighing is in for a surprise.”


—AMANDA FOREMAN, New York Times-bestselling author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire and The World Made by Women


"Bright, smart, and playful, The Dark Queens is a marvelous trip into the murky early Middle Ages.


—DAN JONES, New York Times-bestselling author of The Templars and Powers and Thrones

"An eye-opening medieval delight!...Impeccably researched. A delicious read. ”


DENISE KIERNAN, New York Times-bestselling author of The Girls of Atomic City and We Gather Together

"On the one hand, a story of scheming and savagery to make Game of Thrones look tame — on the other, a genuinely important exploration of the relationship between two powerful women, written with zest and verve.”


SARAH GRISTWOOD, internationally bestselling author of Arbella and The Tudors in Love

"The Dark Queens brings the Merovingian empire to thrilling, bewildering, horrifying life...Told with a sharp eye, at heart-pounding pace."


HELEN CASTOR, author of She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth 


“A brilliant reconstruction of our long-suppressed past, with all its murder and intrigue, loyalty and courage, The Dark Queens is unforgettable.”


NANCY MARIE BROWN, author of The Real Valkyrie


“These dark queens were undaunted survivors who still whisper powerful advice... Puhak has rescued forgotten biographies we must not forget.”


KARA COONEY, PhD, author of When Women Ruled the World

“A blood-soaked journey through sixth-century Europe, casting new light on the so-called Dark Ages...a surprising and thoroughly riveting take.”


EMILY MIDORIKAWA, author of Out of the Shadows

“This gripping saga features everything from gory murders to scandalous nuns. Brunhild and Fredegund are often flattened into Early Medieval Europe’s great villains, but in Shelley Puhak’s brilliant telling, they come to rich and nuanced life.”


EMMA SOUTHON, PhD, author of Agrippina


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