Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Accursed Kings Series 1-6 by Maurice Druon

Published: March 26th 2013 by Harper Collins (first published 1955)
Goodreads Summary: “Accursed! Accursed! You shall be accursed to the thirteenth generation!”

The Iron King – Philip the Fair – is as cold and silent, as handsome and unblinking as a statue. He governs his realm with an iron hand, but he cannot rule his own family: his sons are weak and their wives adulterous; while his red-blooded daughter Isabella is unhappily married to an English king who prefers the company of men.

A web of scandal, murder and intrigue is weaving itself around the Iron King; but his downfall will come from an unexpected quarter. Bent on the persecution of the rich and powerful Knights Templar, Philip sentences Grand Master Jacques de Molay to be burned at the stake, thus drawing down upon himself a curse that will destroy his entire dynasty…


I’m a die-hard fan of A Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin. So when I learned that George (yeah, we’re pal, you didn’t know?) loved the Accursed Kings series written by my fellow countrymen Maurice Druon and recommended it to any ASOIAF lovers, I immediately tried this series out. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Accursed Kings is a series of 7 books: The Iron King, The Strangled Queen, The Poisoned Crown, The Royal Succession, The She-Wolf, The Lily and Lion and When a King Loses France. They relate the tumultuous political events surrounding the French courts during the 14th century. The story opens on Phillip the Fair’s reign and its terrifying trials against the Knights Templar and ends on John II’s disastrous war against the British. 

Even though, we witness the reigns of the last five direct Capetian kings and the two last Valois kings, the plot actually revolves around the gargantuan Phillip of Artois who tries to reclaim the county of Artois from his aunt Mahaut.  I guess if there’s an absolute good, then Phillip might be the absolute evil. As long as it gets him one step closer to getting his county back, he’s up for anything: plotting, killing, falsifying documents, starting wars, basically your usual obsessive psychopath shenanigans.

That guy is behind pretty much every major event in the books and from these events always unfold catastrophic situation for France. The reason for this is because he’s always backing up the political player that’s least interested to improve his country and feeding his or her dream of glory, revenge or power in exchange of a promise to give him his lovely Artois back.

The giant might be a long lost Satan’s spawn but I can’t say I didn’t like him. There’s something almost admirable in his ability to manipulate people like there are puppet on a string, his eloquent and sweet speech which would make Dark Sidious proud, his cunning, his intelligence and his blinding obsession with the County of Artois. Actually, Phillip reminded me of a mix of Robert Baratheon, Littlefinger and Tyrion.

There were other instances where I was reminded of ASOIAF. Phillip the Fair was sort of a French Tywin, Louis X (also called the Stubborn) was a less sadistic Joffreoy and Isabelle kind of reminded me of Cercei. You could tell that George didn’t rip another author’s idea but was rather influenced and inspired by my fellow countryman.

My favourite character was definitely Phillip the Tall. He was definitely among the most humane character and he had what it takes to be a good ruler. However, I won’t lie, he was a very ambitious man and at times, he was able of quite questionable action because of that.
Really, Accursed Kings was everything I’m looking in a book minus the magic: gripping political intrigues, intriguing characters and an entertaining plot.  

My favourite book in the series was The Royal Succession.  I don’t want to spoil you, but if you loved A Clash of Kings, you’ll enjoy the 4th book in the series, ‘cause the premise is similar. There’s no dragon though. 

I thought the last two books in the series, The She-Wolf and The Lily and the Lion, were weaker than the previous ones. At times, I felt like I was reading a history book, rather than a historical fiction book.  

Nonetheless, if you’re into political intrigues, crazy crown prince and power struggle, Accursed Kings is definitely a series I recommend. By the way, I haven’t read When A King Loses France yet, but I’m planning to.

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