“The Poisoned Crown” continues Maurice Druon’s trend of giving away the fates of central characters RIGHT IN THE TITLE. Yes, King Louis X dies, and no, he’s not stabbed or strangled or bludgeoned. He’s poisoned. With that cleared, the third book in the “Accursed Kings” series covers the 15 months or so after the events of “The Strangled Queen.” The quarrels between Robert D’Artois and his aunt Mahaut lead to insurrection of the borderland barons; Louis the Hutin and Clemenzia of Hungary enjoy brief marital bliss before his death; Louis’ more capable brother, Philippe de Poitiers, reconciles with Jeanne of Burgundy; and Guccio Baglioni continues his meteoric social ascent, as well as his doomed romance with Marie, (his tragic inability to gain the acceptance of Marie’s family provides the novel’s only emotional interest.)
It’s a fast read but hardly a stand-alone. More exposition-heavy than even its predecessors, it frequently abandons dramatic scenes to indulge in blocky passages copied-and-pasted from textbooks, in that Dumas-at-his-worst mode.
RATING: GOOD ENOUGH