The Iron King (1955) by Maurice Druon.
First in a seven-book series of French historical novels collectively called The Accursed Kings (“Les Rois Maudits”). Translated by some guy with the unlikely name "Humphrey Hare". The first six books came out from 1955 to 1960, the seventh in 1977. Capets vs Plantagenets and the beginnings of the Hundred Years War. Intrigue, revenge, betrayal, mayhem. Initially crossed my radar as one of the inspirations for the Game of Thrones series; George RR Martin wrote an intro to the new editions in 2013. ("This is the original Game of Thrones!")
I'm about a third or so into it. It's good. The Game of Thrones similarities are there: alternating third-person chapters from different viewpoints, vivid medieval setting, a zillion characters. Intelligently written; doesn't pander at all. There's the occasional old fashioned touch. Like once or twice a "Little did they know – !" sort of sentence. Also the nobility are sometimes referred to by name, sometimes by title, sometimes by their lands – like in Shakespeare – so you have to slow down a little when the reference changes, to sort out who they're talking to or about. So, a couple allowances for age: but it's good.
The book is interesting by itself, just the story. It's also interesting for the setting: the characters are walking around downtown Paris, the Ile de Cite and in front of Notre Dame etc, and my wife & I were there not very long ago (also that area's been in the news recently). And also because of tie-ins: for example the Isabella in chapter one is the same historical character that Sophie Marceau played in Braveheart. Her husband was the gay son in that movie; now king of England in this book.
I know NOTHING, zilch about this era of European history. This book, while a potboiler, also appears to be ridiculously well-researched. Not that I could identify any historical errors he makes; but just because so many of the characters are actual historical figures. There's also about 30 footnotes in the back (for example one about the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar), and those are fun & informative.
“War is the remedy our enemies have chosen. Other simple remedies were within their choice. You know it and they know it, but they wanted war, and I say let us give them all they want.”
― William Tecumseh Sherman