King John by Marc Morris

The author began this with a direct shot across the bow at Shakespeare’s play King John, claiming it wasn’t any good because nobody performed it, all evidence to the contrary.  In its own time, it was highly popular.  I knock a star off of that just on account because I truly expect better from historians.  Facts before assumption, that’s the way it works, or should.

After that, this biography picks up the pace and the quality quite nicely.  Background information is provided regarding John’s parents, his siblings, and the progression of events that led to him being on the throne.  The road to Magna Charta is pretty much the narrative thrust, but the tangled web to explore it is put on display.

I can’t say it’s the best book on this subject I’ve read, but it is definitely one of the better ones, especially for those not well-versed in Plantagenet history.  For those who are, this isn’t about dumbing it down.  It’s simply another quality history to add to the selections.  I found it to be an entertaining read, but then, I always have fun when Eleanor of Aquitaine or William Marshal are anywhere to be found in the narrative.

4 stars


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