Unfortunately good ingredients do not always make a great meal. To some extent this is true for this book as well. Druon’s “The Iron King” takes us to one of the most exciting periods in French history. In the 1300s the pope reigns in Avignon, because he would not be safe in Rome, the powerful Templars are persecuted and practically wiped out and smaller conflicts prepare for the 100-year War.
A lot of praise and positive reviews have been given to Druon's novel, but I have difficulties to really share this view. Also, to my great surprise, this book is often referred to as the “original Game of Thrones” and of course this might be true for the mere facts. There is enough political intrigue and scheming, adultery, debauch, murder and general meanness to fill several books, but what does the author make of it? Admitted, Druon tries very hard to stick to the historical facts and this novel gives you a lot of interesting insight into the period, the mentality of the ruling class and its lifestyle, but if you look for dramatic action and gripping prose, you will be disappointed. Druon’s story telling is frugal fare compared to George R.R. Martins “A Song of Ice and Fire”.
The story itself is quite complex and I do not want to give away too much, but it basically gives account of Philippe the Fair’s reign in France. Driven by greed and the dire need of funds, Philippe gives the order to slaughter and destroy the order of the Templar’s. When Jacques Molais, the Grand Master of the Order of the Templars is burned at the stake, he curses the Pope, King Philippe and his Minister Guillaume de Nogaret and true enough, the curse seems to take effect and events take a nasty turn.
All in all it is an interesting book, especially if you are a fan of historical fiction, but if you expect blood curling action, gut wrenching emotions and passionate encounters you better stay with George R.R. Martin and his kind.