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on 10 November 2017
A five star page turner, read in two sittings. Brilliantly depicted history of the French Capet dynasty, full of gory murder, sex, intrigue. George Martin has said this series, of which the Iron King is the first, was an inspiration for his own Game of Thrones and you can see why. It would take only the merest tweak to turn this history into fantasy. The writing is vivid, precise, not a word wasted. The depictions of people, places captivating. A joy to read, addictive. Some characters stand out as for instance Robert d'Artois, a huge bear of a man full of life and intrigue. You want to know more of him and his plots. You want to know what happens next to this cursed royal family. This is history brought to glorious life. A wonderful read. Roll on the next in the series. Can't recommend it to greatly.
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on 2 January 2015
As other reviewers have pointed out, the publisher blurb which likens this to Game of Thrones is misguided and misleading: this is a dense historical novel, the first of seven, retelling the story of the Capet dynasty in medieval France. This first book follows Philippe IV (Philip the Fair) from his suppression of the Templars to his death in 1314.

The book was originally published in 1955 and there is a slightly old-fashioned air to the narrative. It reminds me a little of Dumas (without the swashbuckling!) especially his La Reine Margot, though is lighter on atmosphere. Druon moves between the machinations of the court, between the private and the public though both are always seen as political.

There are some simplicities in language (they are there in the original French so it's not merely a translation issue) but this is historically detailed and alert to the scholarship on the period. What it's not is a version of the Philippa Gregory historical romance with modern personalities dressed up in medieval costume. I would suggest that historical novelists like Sharon Penman and Colleen McCullough are the inheritors of Druon's approach, though both are more sophisticated writers.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and have the next book in the series lined up...
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on 12 August 2013
Some authors can establish intimacy with a character with well chosen analogy. Marguerite is an intriguing vixen, Robert of Artois a tree trunk of a man, Beatrice D'Hirson a captivating and possibly vicious femme fatale. Knowing them, their individual motivation becomes obvious, colouring in the history they influenced, for there is more history than fiction in here even if the fiction is absorbing. If all medieval history was blessed with as learned a story-teller as Maurice Druon, we would all want to know much more about our past. I have ignored the George Martin controversy expressed in some reviews, but am delighted that his sponsorship facilitated the reprint of a series of books I might never have discovered otherwise. Introducing the Valois era as clearly as it does, this story clarifies the link between Normans of the 11th and 12th centuries and Bourbons of the late 16th, but also starts you off on Edward III's precedents in England. Before long, thanks to the story-telling ground laid by this author, I expect to have a decent command of The Hundred Years War, which will bathe pre-Tudor English history in bright sunlight. Edward III was Isabella's son and his victory at Crecy in 1347 is as pivotal as was his great grandson Henry V's victory at Agincourt in 1415. Read all about Isabella and her times in this fabulous series of books.
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on 20 April 2014
Philip the Fair is the King of France, the Iron King of the title. His daughter is the Queen of England, married to a King who prefers his (male) favourites to her. His sons are married into the family of a powerful noblewoman. This is the setting for scandal, intrigue and politics. Two of the wives of the Princes of France are unfaithful, the third wife helps and supports them in their adultery. The Queen of England is involved in a plot to trap them in their sin and revenge is brutal and swift.

This should be a fantastic book as the facts are there and the setting is rich with detail but it just never takes flight. Whether it is the fault of Druon's original writing or the translation it is hard to tell. The language used is simple and the book just does not grip. I think I'd prefer to read a non-fictional account of the same events.
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VINE VOICEon 14 May 2014
This is the first book in The Accursed Kings series of French historical novels written in the 1950s by noted Academie francaise member Maurice Druon, and cited by George R R Martin as one of his inspirations for his fantasy series beginning with A Game of Thrones. It is set in the high Medieval period at the close of the reign of King Philip IV the Fair, the King who suppressed the Templars and whose daughter Isabella married and probably murdered the English King Edward II and later supported the claim of her son Edward III to the throne of France. This novel covers very dramatic events - the burning at the stake of the Templar leader Jacques de Molay, the serial adultery of the King's daughters-in-law, hideous executions, poisonings and betrayals. Unlike Game of Thrones, it's all real history, though; history being more my cup of tea than fantasy, I expect I'll be reading the second book in this series, The Strangled Queen, before I read A Clash of Kings (Druon's novels are much shorter also!). Great stuff.
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on 4 March 2018
If you like history you will thouroughly enjoy this read. Historic backbone in place and substantial meat on the bones to make a story that I wanted to keep reading, then the next book.... and yes the next book et al. It is up there with fine historic writers such as Scarrow, Ilgudden, Cornwell. I could wax lyrical but needs no more. Highly recommended
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on 2 May 2016
This is Medieval Machiavellian power politics at its absolute best. I first read these books twenty years ago and our old paperbacks have started to fall apart because they've been enjoyed by the many people who have borrowed them. I am now reading them again on Kindle and find them just as wonderful the second time around.Some characters you love, some you hate but they are all fascinating.
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on 8 May 2016
This is one of the most gripping works of historical f
iction, and ranks up there with the Claudius books, and the sensational new TUDOR CRIMES series by Anne Stevens. The author shapes his fiction to fit the known facts very well.
The Iron King is an epic, and is the best French historical I have ever read. At a half million words it almost matches the English Tudor saga by Anne Stevens which comes in at about 800,000!
4star because of the over complexity of the names and family histories.
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on 17 September 2017
This is the first of a series of 7 novels dealing with French and, therefore, the Western European history of the early 15th century. Given Druon's reputation of being the Dumas of the 20th century, I can genuinely vouch for this novel deservedly being a classic in translation.t One must, however be prepared to come to terms with much of the now defunct vocabulary of the High Middle Ages. In addition to delight, this novel invigorates the reader and encourages him / her to return to the study of this age in greater depth.
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on 21 August 2014
Brilliant book, really brings the period and the history to life. Unlike some medieval fiction the characters are made distinct so you don't have to keep reminding yourself who's who. The pace is well-set and it's descriptive without being banal.

Another plus is that it does have about 20 odd notes on historical points you can flick to at the back while reading. These are a very nice touch, but it would have been nicer to have these given more often and in more detail. I suppose though you can always turn elsewhere for more info.

Really enjoyed this and waiting now for the next books in English!
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