Monday, December 13, 2010

The Spider King, by Lawrence Schoonover

This is for Historical Tapestry's blog challenge: X is for Louis XI.

It is easy to forget in today's age of well-known boundaries that so many nations were once jigsaw puzzles of competing fifedoms. When Louis of Valois was born in 1423, both France and England were warring to determine who ruled the ancient and divided Gaul. When Louis was crowned, becoming Louis XI of his realm, both nations were split internally, England mired in the War of Roses, France still subject to the medieval feudal power of its dukes. But Louis fought against the tide of his era, consolidating control and cementing France's boundaries. His story is a fascinating one.

In The Spider King, we begin Louis's story before the moment of his birth and then watch as the spindly, uncertain young man becomes a master warrior and statesman. He earns the honorable affection of two wives and the merited fear of his enemies. But Louis faces the treachery of France's nobility and his rivals' ever insatiable appetites for power. He must contend with, at various times, his father, his brother, his cousin, and the king of England. Whether or not he can succeed in building a modern, united France, one that advances the science of learning under a fair rule of law, is dependent upon his wit, his loyal but scheming advisors, and his luck. With a ring of lead saints' medals pinned upon his hat, Louis XI is rarely unwilling to test all three.

Lawrence Schoonover's Louis is a compelling character, a complicated man weakened by illness and pride but strengthened by his intellect and heart. Louis becomes known as a spider for the complicated webs he weaves, and his morality is not without stain, but his is a great story to follow. Even more so in Schoonover's talented hands, for he spins a masterful story filled with colorful characters and well-realized settings. A delight to read!

Map: France under Louis XI.


Sarah Johnson said...

Thanks for the reminder about this book! I read it a long time ago and thought it well done... there's not much written about medieval France nowadays.

Heather said...

Sounds interesting. I'm always looking for books to help me keep my King Louis straight - why couldn't a few of them be named Henri or Jacques?

Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma