The King Without a Kingdom (1977) by Maurice Druon

“The King Without a Kingdom” was written so long after the rest of the Accursed Kings series, and is of such a different style (narration from one character, rather than viewpoints from many) that it doesn’t just feel like an extended epilogue or coda to the series, but apart from it entirely. The namesake of the series came to a head in “The Lily and the Lion”.

Druon himself said, at the end of that book, he couldn’t bring himself to write any more. What changed? I don’t know, but I know this book feels limp where the previous books felt exciting, didactic where the previous books felt empathetic, dry where the previous books felt heartfelt.


The story all being told by one Cardinal’s long, long meandering speech makes the book feel like a lecture rather than an engaging story. It’s a good thing the Cardinal is an interesting character, because the novel is so overwhelmingly soaked in him that it would have had no chance at having any enjoyable segments at all if he was dull. Even as he is, there’s just too much of him.

While the book follows on from the events of the previous books well enough, though it’s inherently adrift from them given the time different and lack of surviving characters, it ends up just feeling rudderless. It’s history told well enough, but for what purpose? The story’s been told. This is just information. What a disappointing afterthought to a great series. I give it two palanquins, and a treaty.

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