Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Heard: "The Castle of Kings" by Oliver Potzsch

Heard: The Castle of Kings by Oliver Potzsch, 2016 for this English audio, not sure of the original German date. Downloaded from Overdrive.

Two years of the German peasant war of 1524 and 1525. A love story with young adults Matthias and Agnes. A mystery with a ring, a document, a secret society, and a mysterious assassin. Also a pursuit story with Matthias trying to rescue the abducted Agnes before she is sold by slavers or murdered.

The story is well told but Looooooong. This is a 27 part audiobook with a 25h 18m run time, so be aware of what you are getting into.  Don't get me wrong I enjoyed the story but was surprised by the length. Potzsch does drag things out with a couple cliffhangers on revealing a family secret - that did annoy me.

The history is interesting and well used by Potzsch. Germany is run by the church and the aristocracy. Knights and Dukes and Counts have the power. Agnes's father is a knight and Castellane of Trifels Castle. The castle has fallen on hard times - it takes a lot of money to maintain a castle - and the Castellan is being squeezed by his Duke for more and more tax revenue.

The peasants are getting angrier and angrier about things as the Castellan, and others, squeeze blood from stones when dealing with the peasants. Meanwhile the church's priests and monks are living high on the hog as they sell indulgences and live in luxury. Luther's recent religious revolution has the peasants thinking they don't have to suffer the bullshit they put up with.

Matthias is a blacksmith and rebellious. He likes to hang out with the peasants talking revolution. He gets in trouble. He works to forge a cannon so Castellan can attack a neighboring robber-knight. Things happen and revolution boils up.

The peasant revolution is violent and brutal as they slaughter priest and monks and attack the rich. The aristocratic reaction is equally violent and brutal because the peasants are "defying the natural order." Beheadings. Hangings, Quarterings. Torture. Heads on pikes. Bodies hung from trees. Rape. Looting. So on. So forth.

I enjoyed reading about the way of life and how government and social organizations worked. It's also a reminder on what happens in war without restraint. About how quickly civilization can - or will - devolve as things get worse and worse and food, shelter, and safety are at risk. I should read more historical novels.

There are other storylines: Emperor Barbarossa's ring and heritage. A forced marriage for Agnes. Blah. Blah. Blah. Read a review if you want more of the plot details.

I've not heard the full afterword by Poltzsch writes that he is a nut for castles and drags his family to all the ones he visits.

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