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The Castle of Kings Kindle Edition
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“Combine Princess Bride with Germanic history circa 1500, add a dash of Lord of the Rings, and there's a week of good fun . . ." -- Kirkus Reviews
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Inside Flap
Over the next two years, Agnes and Mathis travel the countryside, tossed about by the war. They are each captured by and escape from various factions, participate in massive battles, make new friends both noble and peasant, and fall in love. Meanwhile, Agness falcon finds a mysterious ring, and Agnes begins having strange but seemingly meaningful dreams. Dreams that lead the two lovers to revelations about their place in the world and in the emerging German states. With The Castle of Kings, Oliver Pötzsch has written a historical yarn that calls to mind Ken Folletts The Pillars of the Earth and Bernard Cornwells Agincourt.
- ASIN : B00QPHKQZQ
- Publisher : Mariner Books; Reprint edition (July 19, 2016)
- Publication date : July 19, 2016
- Language : English
- File size : 7936 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 661 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #123,746 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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OVERALL: 2.8 out of 5
This is a good historical adventure, filled with romance, fighting, and intrigue. There’s also melodrama, some uninteresting characters, and uneven plotting. You have to take the bad with the good though, and this book is mostly good. My biggest complaints center on parts of the story that aren’t interesting, a hint of supernatural elements that are really just story crutches, and a general disjointing of the mood.
To explain that last bit; the book feels torn between “hard reality” where horrible things happen to people, and a more fairy tale “the passing of feudalism” story where dreams mean important things and beautiful women stand on the battlements with their hair blowing in the wind. The narrative switches between these two atmospheres without warning, and maybe that was the goal, but it lessened the impact of the story for me. I guess I would have liked something more concise in terms of the mood developed by the reader while reading.
Ultimately, (according to the afterward) the author set out to capture the mystery and majesty of castles, and I think he succeeded. Medieval architecture plays an important role in the book, and readers who allows themselves to be carried away into the stone passages and tall towers will not consider their time wasted.
RATINGS BY CATEGORY
CHARACTERS: 2 out of 5
The characters aren’t very original. Agnes could be any modern Disney princess (strong willed, speaks her mind, engages in men’s sports, etc.), while Mathis is a typical “educated young tradesman” who feels torn between his love for Agnes (a lady of lesser nobility) and his belief that the feudal system is broken. Other characters play important roles (a minstrel-knight named Melchior von Tanningen provides some unpredictability), but there isn’t anyone here who jumps off the page.
My biggest complaint is that I did not really care about the characters. They have their motivations and hardships, but I was never too invested. Other opportunities for interesting personalities, like a mysterious African assassin who appears periodically, are mostly wasted.
PACE: 2 out of 5
The interesting stuff comes at occasional intervals, though not necessarily synchronized with the peak-valley structure of action vs. quiet scenes. Parts with the secret society, the mysterious African assassin, and the robber knight were of interest, while most of the parts dealing with Agnes’s dreams and the peasant rebels were not as interesting for me. The book feels too long.
STORY: 4 out of 5
Despite earlier complaints, I really enjoyed the overall story. It’s a great historical adventure with love, war, lost secrets, betrayal, and curious reversals of fortune. The decay of Trifels Castle parallels the declining role of knights in a changing world, and Pötzsch tries his best not to pull any punches. Innocent people are murdered senselessly, maidens are violated, and a lot of blood is spilled.
I think I prefer a slightly more “cavalier” flavor to my fiction (Howard Pyle’s “Otto of the Silver Hand” comes to mind, though that is by no means my favorite), but the grittiness in this story works partly because the first few chapters feel ideal- almost like a fairy tale that is rudely shattered by harsh reality.
My complaints mostly have to do with plot devices. The book itself seems to be uncertain whether the supernatural is a real thing or not. Maybe these elements add spice for other readers, but I was mostly annoyed by what seemed to be indecision on the writer’s part. Dreams just don’t work in real life the way they seem to in this story, and because it’s not really supernatural, they (the dreams) became a plot crutch.
DIALOGUE: 3 out of 5
Most of the dialogue is well-written, and Pötzsch does a good job of making sure each character has their own voice. You can flip to any conversation and tell within a second or two whether you’re reading Agnes, Mathis, Melchior, or some of the others.
There are some “speeches” though, where I felt like I was being bombarded with (admittedly important) narrative disguised as unrealistic dialogue.
STYLE/TECHNICAL: 3 out of 5
Okay, this is probably the hardest part for me to review. Pötzsch’s writing is clear and easy to read. There are some mistakes that should have been caught at the editor’s level (a one-eyed character seems to frequently have two eyes in the text), but there is something else going on here... something that is at the root of my problem with all of this author’s work...
My best guess is that something is lost in translation. Pötzsch’s writing is solid, but it lacks character. Robert E. Howard has this descriptive ability and dynamic action unlike anyone else, while Sabatini is eloquent to the point of being difficult to read (for those untrained). William Gibson’s writing requires a person to read into each sentence, but also pay attention to paragraphs as a whole, and J.K. Rowling has this ability to transport the reader into the world she is describing. Pötzsch... feels a bit like a textbook.
This isn’t to bash the author or his translators- I think the English here is TERRIFIC. It’s just that the technical execution lacks something more personal, and I don’t know if that could be fixed by anyone. Maybe I need to learn German to read the original material, but I wouldn’t want anyone to think the writing isn’t clear or even enjoyable- it just leaves me with a kind of empty feeling.
It starts out setting the scene - instead of Magdalena the hangman's daughter, we have Agnes, the daughter of a knight that controls a castle. Like Magdalena, she is strong-willed, speaks her mind when she isn't supposed to, and resents everything about her station in life. Then we have Mathis, a childhood friend who she has developed romantic feelings for...but it wouldn't be a Potzsch novel if that romance was "forbidden", as he is a lowly smith. Potzsch obsesses over these class divides in his stories, and on a basic level this is the same storyline as HD, just genderswapped. I don't mind too much since I'm sure such things were common back then, but it's kind of a cliche. I also found Agnes to be extremely Mary Sue-ish and probably the least interesting of the main characters - the stuff about her dreams was a bit contrived and too convenient, and she doesn't really do much aside from getting herself into situations that Mathis and others have to rescue her from.
Then we get into the mystery bit that seems to involve Agnes's heritage and a secretive group that has something to do with a ring that comes into her possession. I won't spoil the plot too much, but as the story progressed there were certain things that I noted.
First, as with Hangman's Daughter, Potzsch loves to have 3-4 plots developing at once and abruptly switches between them, almost always leaving you on a cliffhanger. This can be a little jarring, but at the same time drives you to continue reading so you can figure out what that section was building up to. I finished this book in just 2 sittings as a result. Another thing the author likes to do is tries to make the mystery impossible to solve until he reveals it to you. This time though if you have read his other work and how he portrays the surprise villains and know how to dodge the red herrings, it was super easy to predict. The only question was the motive.
The ending was very disappointing to me, even though I loved the rest of the story despite the above flaws. Agnes was finally in the position to make a difference (to some degree - due to her being a woman there were of course limitations to what she could have done), and she just basically said "I don't wanna" and the ending just felt like nothing was resolved.
To summarize, if you liked The Hangman's Daughter series, you'll probably like this one. It has all the cool historical bits mixed with fiction to make it more readable, and it is a very engaging story that you don't want to put down. It's also interesting if you've ever lived in Germany or been around the area. For example I just was at Trifels castle last year so it added just a little bit of intrigue to it all trying to imagine how the modern town of Annweiler and the rebuilt castle were back then.
I have previously read this author's Hangman's Daughter's series and his book on Ludwig II of Bavaria. All were well written with complex characters and a thoughtful attention to detail. I consider The Castle of Kings his best work that I've read so far. That is not to disparage the others. I would give them 5 stars also. This book deserves 10 stars.