The King’s Women

Written by Deryn Lake
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

1403. The middle of the Hundred Years War. The wolves are circling France. We follow the fortunes of the Dauphin Charles, who will eventually, with the aid of Jeanne D’Arc, force the English out and break the dominance of England’s ally, Burgundy.

This blockbuster of a book can best be described as Dan Brown meets Angelique. The women are beautiful (Agnes Sorel, Charles’s mistress); depraved (Isabeau, Charles’s mother); astute rulers (Yolande of Anjou); and illegitimate (Jeanne d’Arc, daughter of two Very Important People). The men are evil (the Satanist, Gilles de Rais); passionate (Arthur de Richemont, Yolande’s lover); into alchemy and scrying (Guy, the Astronomer Royal); and we must not forget our old friends, the Knights Templar and the Priory of Sion, who have, apparently, been operating underground for a century and now emerge to train Jeanne in the arts of war.

The cast list is vast, and you need your wits about you as various rapacious nobles switch sides. Fortunately, there is a detailed family tree and a much-needed Cast of Characters. I found the book colourful, fast-paced, blood-thirsty, sexy and page-turning. But is it accurate historically? What the hell, it’s a terrific read. What more do you want?