32 LE ROI DE FER (Tr: THE IRON KING) Maurice Druon (France, 1955)
33 LA REINE ETRANGLEE (Tr: THE STRANGLED QUEEN) Maurice Druon (France, 1955)
34 LES POISONS DE LA COURONNE (Tr: THE POISONED CROWN) Maurice Druon (France, 1956)
35 LA LOI DES MALES (Tr: THE ROYAL SUCCESSION) Maurice Druon (France, 1957)
The series opens with the reign of Philippe IV of France (known as Philippe le Bel which means Philippe the Fair) and follows the events that lead to the Hundred Years' War. In the middle of great political turmoil, a man and a woman - Robert d'Artois and Mahaut d'Artois- fight for the same earldom.
The first novel, The Iron King, may seem a little slow at first, but gradually the plot builds up to become complex and gripping in the second volume, The Strangled Queen. Maurice Druon makes sure as many layers of the medieval society are included in his saga; the nobility (poor and rich), the clergy, the merchants... I truly believe I've learnt a lot. Druon used controversial theories and legends to write a story that's more compelling than a simple historical retelling would have been. As a result, it's always a good idea to check historical facts in books or online after reading the novels to make sure you get your facts right. The series is by no means misleading, it is well-researched and fairly reliable, but it remains fiction.
Beyond history, a saga of such a scope always has its problems. There'll always be characters you care more about than others. In Game of Thrones Jon Snow and Daenerys often bore me, in The Accursed Kings it's the bankers and among them, a young man's love story with a poor noblewoman. The superiority of a particular volume over another therefore often relies on which characters it focuses.
Another difficulty comes from the fact that there're not only a lot of characters, but they often have similar names, which means it is essential to keep an eye on the glossary to make sense of the action.
The pocket editions are on average 350 pages each (French novels are often shorter than the ones written in the English speaking world); they're not as complex as George R. R. Martin's saga.
Book 1 3/5
Book 2 4/5
Book 3 3/5
Book 4 3.5/5