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The Iron King (The Accursed Kings, Book 1)

The Iron King - Maurice Druon 3.5? I'll start off by admitting that I'm one of those new bandwagon readers of Maurice Druon and that I've only even heard of his work because I'm desperately trying to fill the Westeros-sized hole in my soul that only gets bigger the longer I have to wait on George R.R. Martin to finish with The Winds of Winter. I heard that GRRM was making reading recommendations to tide his fans over and on his blog saw that he was calling Druon's work "the original game of thrones." SOLD. The most concise way I can think of to describe The Iron King is, well, "not unpleasant." Which sounds like a criticism, but for fans of historical fiction who also like non-painful writing, most of the time "not unpleasant" is a victory. There is a lot of historical fiction out there, and at least 75% of it hackneyed, clich├ęd garbage. I'll take "not unpleasant" any day. That being said, I struggled quite a bit to get into this book. The style was very different from what I'm used to reading, very formal and awkward at times. That could be due to the age of the text (originally published in 1955), the translation (in my reading experience French novels in particular seem to have a hard time finding worthy English translators), the abilities of Mr. Druon, or any combination of the three. At times it felt Druon was a historian writing his first novel, and as a frequent reader of narrative nonfiction I was able to muddle through those parts, but by 1955 he had many other works under his belt so I'm not sure what was going on. There were definitely some times that it felt like Druon was being stylistically lazy, like the frequent breaking of the fourth wall to directly address the reader. He also could have done a better job of establishing the characters as individuals. Many times I had to go back to the list of characters at the beginning, when if he had fleshed them out enough as people it would have been easier to keep them straight. I will say that he did a good job of making King Phillip, Queen Isabella, and the Lombard Tolomei seem like the imposing presences they likely were. The biggest flaw in this book is going to be the same thing that gets so many people reading it, and that flaw's name is George R.R. Martin. Being such a capable writer, Martin has raised the bar to a level that Druon could not hope to meet. That being said, the second I finish typing this review I'm going to go start the second book in the Accursed Kings series, The Strangled Queen. I'm really curious to see how the rest of the series goes. The Iron King was by no means perfect, but "not unpleasant" is a good place to be, if you ask me.