The Castle of Kings

Written by Oliver Pötzsch
Review by Justin M. Lindsay

Germany, 1524. Agnes is the daughter of a castellan whose home is the former seat of the Holy Roman Empire, but now fallen into obscurity. Mathis is the blacksmith’s son, though his interest in metallurgy takes him far afield from horseshoes and nails – firearms and artillery are his specialty. They make for unlikely companions. She’s unconventional, spending her days in clothing more suited to hunting than to noble courts, and with her beloved falcon. He’s distracted by the rumors of uprisings around the country, of peasants rebelling against their overlords.

As her father’s only daughter, Agnes is slated for an unhappy marriage with some as-yet-unnamed nobleman. As a commoner, Mathis has only the drudgery of his father’s life to look forward to. But Agnes is having dreams, far too vivid to be ignored. Are they echoes of the past? What do they mean for her, and for the throne? When Mathis is wrongfully imprisoned for murdering the mayor, their fates, already close, now become irrevocably intertwined. With murderers on their heels and civil war all around, they must solve the mystery of her dreams – to save their lives, and possibly topple an empire.

Pötzsch unveils a world full of historical detail and life. The cast of characters gives the reader the full scope of the ills that face imperial Germany at this time. But for such a long book, there is surprisingly little story. The pace is slow, with too much angst and too much wondering and pining. There are some good twists and turns along the way, but halfway through, this reviewer was eager for the book to finish. The ending had too many fantastical elements to it, too much deus ex machina. This felt like a debut novel, not a work from a seasoned writer like Pötzsch.