While the plot of the novel is pretty obvious, it still makes a very interesting read. King Philip IV is dead and France is in turmoil as the Grand Master of Templar’s curse seemed to work quite mysteriously.
Louis, his first born ascends the throne as the King though his disgraced wife and Queen Marguerite of Burgundy is still imprisoned. With no possible way out to get an annulment (as there was no Pope), Louis’s reign is fraught with controversies and the power struggle between his uncle Valois and Enguerrand de Marigny. Valois seeks to get his nephew (the King) to be married to his own niece while this is opposed by Marigny whose machinations leave Europe without a Pope.
Louis is definitely unhinged and has none of the brilliance that his father possessed (I could see shades of GOT Joffery Baratheon in him). You could also understand why Marguerite strayed away from their marriage to find love elsewhere. Poor Marguerite is a pitiful character in this novel. She almost got out of her prison only to be strangled by the power play of Marigny, thus justifying the title.
The power struggle between Marigny and Valois is very interesting to read and one really gets a glimpse of how the medieval world worked. Tyrion Lannister’s quote is very apt when he says, “The powerful have always preyed on the powerless. That’s how they became powerful in the first place.” Valois can’t stand the sight of Marigny because he is an up jumped steward while Marigny finds Valois to be overbearing and obnoxious and his influence on Loius irks him to no end.
Marigny hands over the care of treasury to Valois and troubles pile up for the King. The treasury is empty and with the conclave not electing a Pope anytime sooner, he can’t annul his marriage. Valois in the meanwhile has found the perfect bride for Louis who will not wait for more than a few months. That’s when Loius comes up with the plan of doing away with his wife and Robert of Artois hurries to curry his favour by getting rid of her.
After Marguerite’s death, Louis is free to marry but with the treasury empty they had to take a loan from the Lombard bankers to buy bridal gifts for Clemence of Hungary (which is quite pathetic if you ask me).
The love story of Guccio Baglioni is very interesting but I did keep wondering about its significance to the overall plot.
Marigny’s imprisonment and subsequent death which was instigated by Valois (despite his faithful service) fulfills the Templar’s curse completely. Marigny had worked tirelessly with Philip to disband the Knights Templar and to confiscate all their wealth to fill the King’s coffers. One could say that Marigny got served the same justice that he had helped Philip serve the Templars.
Verdict – Unputdownable…