I hardly watch any TV at all, except whatever TV-shows my kids subject me to (though I do actually quite like both SpongeBob, and Adventure Time). The one show that is currently a must-watch for me, is HBO’s Game Of Thrones. I fell in love with the books first, so season 5 has been a bit of a challenge for me: not really because of the level of violence, but because of deviations from the book that I don’t really think served the story. But a great cast, and the fact that I love to see the story play out on screen (dragons! White Walkers! Daenerys’ hair!), keeps it in the must-watch category.

winds-of-winter

But now the season is over, and right now we are still (impatiently) waiting for George R.R. Martin’s next book in the series: Winds of Winter.  No show, no new book. I’ve already re-read a few of the books, and I’ve been delving into that Untold History of Westeros tome as well, but there is also another series of books that is connected to Martin’s books in A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones.

If you’ve read a bit about Martin’s inspiration for the series, you might have come across a mention of French author Maurice Druon’s series of  seven books called The Accursed Kings. Martin has said about the series: “This was the original game of thrones”.

To quote Wikipedia:

The Accursed Kings (French: Les Rois Maudits) is a series of seven historical novels by the French author Maurice Druon, of the Académie française, about the French monarchy in the 13th and 14th centuries. The series has been adapted twice for television. — The novels take place during the reigns of the last five direct Capetian kings and the first two Valois kings, from Philip the Fair to John II.

Or, to quote George R.R. Martin, it is “an amazing seven-volume series about King Philip IV of France, his sons and daughters, the curse of the Templars, the fall of the Capetian dynasty, the roots of the Hundred Years War.”

So the plot does revolve around how France fell into trouble and turmoil after Philip the Fair died, how the royal succession did not produce a king that could really hold on to power, or use it effectively. And it also revolves around the character Robert of Artois and his attempts to reclaim the county of Artois from his aunt Mahaut.

Iron_King

Druon based his stories on the actual, factual history of France and the Capetian kings, but his writing is anything but dry and scholarly: here we get to see the lust, sex, greed, violence, arrogance, war, love, and betrayal that shaped France (and England as well) back then. It’s a tumultuous, action- and violence-filled story featuring romance and exotic locations, as well as many larger than life characters: both good and bad. It’s a captivating and rollicking story, and Druon keeps your interest in both the characters and the history along the way.

I highly recommend these books for anyone who likes historical fiction. One word of warning: Druon obviously loves the historical character Robert of Artois. Robert is a large man in every sense of the word: large in size, appetites, and ambition. But the final book in the series takes place after the death of Robert of Artois, and I feel as if that made Druon’s storytelling somewhat less adventurous and engaging. The final book is still a great read, but it is not quite as good as the first six.

The seven books in the series are:

  1. The Iron King
  2. The Strangled Queen
  3. The Poisoned Crown
  4. The Royal Succession
  5. The She-Wolf
  6. The Lily and the Lion
  7. The King Without a Kingdom
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