“The Iron King” and “The Strangled Queen” focused primarily on courtly intrigue and politics, with a chapter about young Guccio occasionally peppered in, but “The Poisoned Crown” focuses so much on Guccio that the ratio feels flipped. The monarchy feels like the subplot here, with Guccio’s adventures the “main” story of the book.
I was very happy about this, as Guccio is the most compelling character to me, and the characters he interacts with are more easily distinguishable than the more complicated casts involved in the royal storylines. That’s not to say Guccio isn’t involved in those royal storylines, because he certainly is (particularly in his chapters with Clemence here), but they aren’t the bread and butter of his story.
Druon’s approach to the different storylines of the series felt a lot more cohesive and focused in this book, as there was a lot less jumping-around. Characters tended to have more consecutive chapters. This made for a much easier read for me, and I appreciated how much more smoothly following the storylines went when they didn’t dart around so much. Even in terms of content the book feels a lot more unified than the last two, as troubled love is the focal point of both Guccio and the Hutin’s stories.
Perhaps it just comes down to the fact I’m more invested in the characters that were focused on more in this book, but the ending felt a lot more powerful and devastating to me than the last two book’s endings, and like a more natural stopping point than the somewhat arbitrary ending of the second book in particular. I found it a more compelling read than the first two books in that sense. I give it four sweets, and a murdered monk.