Look. It’s become something of a staple of mine to compare how much I enjoy a new work of fiction to my undying love of the ongoing A Song of Ice and Fire saga. Which, admittedly, is unfair. However, in this instance, author George R. R. Martin did the work for me.
Iron Kings and strangled queens, battles and betrayals, lies and lust, the curse of the Templars, the doom of a great dynasty – and all of it (well, most of it) straight from the pages of history, and believe me, the Starks and the Lannisters have nothing on the Capets and Plantagenets. Whether you are a history buff or a fantasy fan, Druon’s epic will keep you turning pages. This was the original game of thrones.” – George R. R. Martin.
Credited by Martin himself as the “original Game of Thrones,” which gives us the most subtle of hints at perhaps even offering inspiration for the works, (The Iron King. The Iron Throne. Rocket science.) The Iron King is the first book of Maurice Druon’s “The Accursed Kings” epic and a glorious example of historical fiction. Not to mention that it comes recommended by fantasy-fiction guru George R. R. Martin himself. And if that isn’t the most fore of words, then I’m not sure what is.
Set to a backdrop of Thirteenth century France, The Iron King follows the story of the 100 Year War, King Phillip the Fair’s reign, his disbanding the order of the Knights Templar, and the curse issued to him by Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, after Phillip imprisoned and executed Molay for refusing him a loan.
Upon the opening of the story, King Phillip has the entirety of the Order arrested on the same night and seizes their possessions. Under torture, the Grand Master confesses to the most heinous of crimes (spitting on the cross) and is subsequently convicted of heresy. As his sentence of being burnt at the stake is carried out, Molay utters a curse from the execution pyre upon the King, Pope Clement V, and 13 generations of their descendants. Since all this happened on Friday the 13th.
Meanwhile, Robert of Artois, a French nobleman who could be credited with having the fanciest sounding name ever, feels that he has been cheated out of his inheritance by his aunt, Mahaut. Her daughters have all been strategically married off to King Phillip’s sons, and when Robert learns of their infidelity, he enlists the help of the King’s absolutely breathtaking daughter, Isabella, to bring them down. Remember the pretty, pretty French Princess in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart? One in the same!
Though having walked around France certainly helped my mental image, it was unnecessary as Druon’s prose does this for the reader without making the descriptions ever feel overbearing. Add on the intrigue of King Phillip trying to reign in his family, from his son’s adulterous wives to his daughter’s English king of a husband who happens to enjoy the company of men, and you’ve got a nailbiter of a story with fans ranging from the previously mentioned George R. R. Martin, Nicolas Sarkozy and Vladimir Putin.
The Iron King will be published in paperback and on sale March 26, 2013 at $14.99 a pop from Harper Collins Publishers. And I, for one, will be eagerly anticipating the translation of the rest of the series!