Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: The Iron King (The Accursed Kings #1) by Maurice Druon

A novel of Philip the Fair of France and the scandalous and violence of his court, first book in The Accursed Kings series about the Capets.

“If you like A Song of Ice and Fire, you will love The Accursed Kings” - George R.R. Martin.

You can imagine my excitement. A Foreward written by one of my favorite authors explaining how this series was one of his inspirations for possibly my favorite series ever.

I don’t know if it’s because this is a translation or if it’s because it was written nearly 60 years ago, or perhaps both, but I found the writing style and dialogue very stiff. The narrative even reads more like a history book at times - very matter-of-fact. I think this was an even bigger let down because of the hype around it, not only revered by readers but recommended by George R.R. Martin. Most of the criticism seems to be from GRRM fans who, like me, picked it up on the back of his recommendation, but it’s important to note that it’s the plot content, not the writing style, which is “Game of Thrones-like”. Don’t expect this to have Martin’s narrative. However, I also read a lot of historical fiction about royalty so this should have been right up my alley even if Martin had never spoken a word about it so it’s not just the comparison to ASOIAF which is causing this to be a disappointment.

I did see some of the influence it may have had on Martin's series though, mostly in the characters, so that is saying something. Isabella reminded me a little of Cersei sometimes, though not nearly as evil. But if I had to recommend something similar to ASOIAF, I'd probably go with any of Bernard Cornwell's medieval based novels/series. Though his cast of characters is not as extensive, his portrayal of the medieval world is very similar, as is his sense of humor. Apparently the two authors are good friends as well.

There is a great story here, if you’re willing to get passed the methodical style of the narrative and dialogue. Those who are used to Jean Plaidy’s writing style, for example, might get on board with this easily (evidence that it has something to do with being written in the 1950s) - and I have been able to enjoy Plaidy’s work so I feel a little hypocritical given this a lower rating. But after my anticipation was so high, this was a greater let down.

I would have liked to see what a more modern translator could do with this, since I’m pretty sure it’s just been reissued as it was at the time of the last release and not re-translated.

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