Monday, September 14, 2015

The Beggar King

15776904The year is 1662. Alpine village hangman Jakob Kuisl receives a letter from his sister calling him to the imperial city of Regensburg, where a gruesome sight awaits him: her throat has been slit. Arrested and framed for the murder, Kuisl faces firsthand the torture he’s administered himself for years.

Jakob’s daughter, Magdalena, and a young medicus named Simon hasten to his aid. With the help of an underground network of beggars, a beer-brewing monk, and an Italian playboy, they discover that behind the false accusation is a plan that will endanger the entire German Empire.

Chock full of historical detail, The Beggar King brings to vibrant life another tale of an unlikely hangman and his tough-as-nails daughter, confirming Pötzsch’s mettle as a writer to watch.

*May Contain Spoilers*

I never know what to expect from nor how I will enjoy historical novels. Though most historical fiction does entertain me, most of the time I find the history part of the book a bit boring. However, that is most definitely untrue when it comes to Oliver Pötzsch. The Beggar King is an intense trip to the 1600s complete with blunt facts of how life was at that time. It's more than a story, more than a novel. The Beggar King is an experience. 

Jakob, Magdalena, and Simon are the three main characters of this piece. Jakob is the Hangman for a town called Schongau. Therefore, he is often criticized and cursed, believed to be aligned with the devil himself. As readers witness Jakob lured into a trap and his actions following, they see his honest nature. Jakob may be a man of death, but it isn't an enjoyable act for him. Being an executioner is something he inherited, not strove for. It has to be incredibly difficult as a writer to have one of the main characters be a hangman who tortures people, sometimes innocent, yet successfully appeal to the reader's understanding nature in such a way that they will feel connected with him. Though Pötzsch pulls it off with ease. 

Magdalena is a fun, entertaining, smart-mouthed, blunt, force of nature. She's rowdy and naive with a mean streak. And, somehow she is still trusting, loving, and hopeful. Basically Magdalena is a lovely mess. Readers will definitely enjoy the tongue thrashings that she doles out freely. As well as her tendency to get into heaps of trouble and slip away like an eel. Though, when she's mean to Simon, I always found myself taking his side. As his temper was a bit more controllable. Simon is a medicus. He did study medicine though never graduated from school. Simon is a planner. He's helpful, giving, and strong. Yes, at times he is a little jealous, but I believe he had a right to be. Readers will like Simon for Magdalena as he takes care of her and goes along with most of her crazy plans. He also plays the hero a few times. 

The plot of The Beggar King beings with a letter that Jakob receives saying that his sister is deathly ill. With a bag full of herbs, he sets off for the city of Regensberg only to arrive in the middle of a set-up. He is immediately arrested and charged with double homicide. Meanwhile, Magdalena and Simon realize that because of their class difference, the small town of Schongau will never let them be together in peace. They decide to run away and set their sights on Regensberg, where anything can happen and freemen earn their classes. Once they arrive, they are horrified to find out what has happened to Jakob. Magdalena knows that his only chance lies with them and they must uncover the truth. Easier said than done in a city of cruel guards, rich beggars, and living shadows. Fantastic depth of characters and incredible entertainment outlined with rich detail and dwindling hope, The Beggar King is a must read for lovers of mystery and historical fiction.

Rating: 4/5 Cups

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