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Book Review

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The She Wolf


Author: Maurice Druon
Publisher: Harper Voyager
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 749134 6
Publication Date: 25 September 2014

Charles IV is now king of France, following the short reigns of his predecessors and seemingly still living under the Templar’s curse. Whilst he is a weak king, prey to the stronger forces in his court, across the channel his sister, Isabella, is faring no better. Married to Edward II, his sexual leanings makes him prefer the company of the males in his court, leaving his wife at the mercy of those who would dispose of her. Meanwhile, Roger Mortimer languishes in the Tower planning his escape...

The She Wolf (428 pages) is the fifth book in The Accursed King series, written by Maurice Druon and translated from the French, by Humphrey Hare.

The series is akin to Greek and Roman histories, in that they take known historical fact and provide fictitious interactions and conversations to join the disparate facts together. The books have found wide approval and are identified by George R. R. Martin as a big influence on The Game of Thrones novels. There are a number of similarities of structure between the two works. Both have plots which are advanced by taking the perspective of a single character, before switching to another and both contain a surfeit of sex, intrigue and violence.

Given that the books are based on historical fact, albeit in a fictionalised version, giving away the plot seems to be a moot point. This novel covers the period from Mortimer’s escape from the tower to the fall of King Edward. Predominantly set in France the book chronicles Isabella’s flight from England and her husband, who has abused her, to her triumphant return at the head of an army.

Isabella is a strong character and through mostly her eyes and that of Mortimer we are taken through the court of Charles IV, who in his weak rule has more in common with Edward than many of the other characters who appear.

The late eleventh and early twelfth centuries were not a comfortable time to live in. The major royal houses were either connected by marriage or more directly related, but this did not stop them from killing each other, either to gain power or under the pretext of a feud. The book makes it abundantly clear that many of the problems of the age came from having two such weak kings, who left a power vacuum for others to fill. At its heart the book charts the growing romance between Isabella and Mortimer, although given the amount of backstabbing which goes on, the book could not really be classified as a historical romance.

The book has a forward by George R. R. Martin extolling the virtues of the series and his indebtedness to Druon. Even if you’re not particularly drawn to historical novels there is much here which will please Thrones fans as well as a wider audience. Because of the vast amount of characters and their intertwined relationships, the book provides a quick rundown of who the characters are as well as historical notes at the back.


Charles Packer

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