Les Rois Maudits

I’ve been reading this series of books by Maurice Druon. It translates into The Accursed Kings, and concerns the fall of the French Capetian Dynasty. The first book starts off in 1314, with King Philip IV about to execute the leaders of the Knights Templar, after which everything starts going downhill, both for the Capetians and for France.

It follows a number of different characters, mostly nobles, and involves lots of politics and intrigue. For a historical novel, it does a great job of conveying the different factions, as well as their motivations, in what seems to be a fairly accurate manner (although French medieval history isn’t exactly my speciality). George R. R. Martin has stated that the series is a major influence on his A Song of Ice and Fire, and it definitely shows, both in the way it’s written (with each chapter following a specific character), and the subject matter (knight and kings, and stuff). Each book in the series even has a character list - sorted by faction - at the beginning, much like Martins.

So far, I’ve only read the first three books, The Iron King, The Strangled Queen and The Poisoned Crown. I’ve gotten my hands on number 5 and 6, but not number 4, which leads to the major downside of this series (for the English reader): the series was originally written in the 1950’s, and the last English translation was published in the 1980’s (iirc), which can make the books difficult to track down, at a reasonable price. With the exception of book 4, though, I’ve managed to get them at a decent price, on either ebay or biblio.com, so it’s not too bad.

Another, slightly less serious, issue, is that the series contains 7 books, but only 6 of those have been translated to English. As far as I understand, this is because the books were translated in the 1950’s, shortly after the original 6 books had been published. The seventh wasn’t published untill 1977, at which point there was no longer any interest in translating it. Something like that, anyway. On the bright side, from what I hear, the seventh book is kind of tacked on anyway, and isn’t necessary in order to enjoy the series.

There has been two tv adaptations so far, both very enjoyable from all accounts (that I’ve read), and both available on dvd, but with neither having English subtitles, or any other subtitles for that matter. Why they chose not to subtitle them is beyond me, and seeing as how the books aren’t being translated anymore, I guess I don’t have much hope for the either of the tv series.

Anyway, the books are awesome. Anyone interested in medieval European history, as well as any fan of A Song of Ice and Fire, who don’t mind having to jump through a hoop or two, should definitely check them out.

edit: took out a “though”. I tend to use that word a bit too much, and twice in a sentence is way too much. :)

It’s Ice & Fire only it’s 1) finished, 2) mostly actually happened. Which is mind-blowing when you think about some of the events. I had never heard of Roger Mortimer before reading this - just goes to show how MUCH there is in history.

Finding translations in English is a bitch though - in the States at least, I don’t know if it’s easier in Europe. I read the whole thing in the original French. I want to buy English copies of it to loan out to some fantasy-reading friends (we share books a lot) but the only ones I can turn up are outrageously expensive.

I’d like to read them in French (not to mention watch the tv shows), but my French isn’t good enough unfortunately. I’m seriously considering taking evening classes, although I have other reasons for wanting to learn French, besides the books.

You’re right that the prices do seem somewhat high (at least for the first book). As I said, I was able to find them relatively cheaply, at I think $10-$30 per book, so I’d suggest checking ebay regularly for a while. Hopefully, they’ll turn up soon.

In case anyone is interested, these books are now being reprinted in English by Harper Collins, and the first one has apparently already been released.