In 2012 — how time flies — I wrote a blogpost about the risks for writers of creative contamination when reading novels too close to their own niche.
On occasion, and to my great surprise, my own series, Dark Tales of Randamor the Recluse, has been compared to Games of Thrones. More specifically as a gay version of Martin’s far more successful series. I hadn’t, and haven’t, read Games of Thrones. Are the similarities just coincidences?
I think I’ve solved the mystery.
It always annoyed me, whether the comparison was meant in a flattering way or not, because there was no way I could have been influenced by George R.R. Martin’s series. Games of Thrones was on my TBR pile, but after reading a few of those reviews I became a bit shy of involuntary “bleed through.” So I still haven’t read Games of Thrones, nor have I seen the TV series. I did read the description of a few events occurring in Martin’s books, enough to recognize certain themes, some of which I had used myself in Dark Tales. All the more reason to stay far away from Games of Thrones for fear of creative contamination, I concluded.
Nevertheless, it kept intriguing me. Where did the (probably) superficial similarities originate from? A complete mystery, until… I read the blurb of the English translation of a French series of historical novels from the 1950s, Les Rois Maudits by Maurice Druon. The translated version is called The Accursed Kings, and in the blurb George R.R. Martin is cited: “This is the original Games of Thrones.”
The Original Dark Tales of Randamor the Recluse
Aha indeed. I read Les Rois Maudits, to call the series by its original name, a long time ago in the very affordable French Livre de Poche mass paperback edition. All the more affordable since I bought all seven volumes at a secondhand bookstore. By now I‘ve reread them at least five times. Sometimes I’m tempted to read a fragment, or just the opening paragraphs of the first book, Le Roi de Fer (The Iron King), but I don’t. I know I’ll probably keep on reading until I’ve finished the whole series once again.
Les Rois Maudits tells the story of the last direct Capetian kings of France, among many other things. The underlying theme is how the hatred of one Robert d’Artois, who obsessively tries to recuperate his inheritance, the county of Artois, will eventually lead to the Hundred Years’ War between France and England.
Before we get there, we encounter publicly castrated and quartered young noblemen, a strangled captive queen, the demise by burning at the stake of the Templars, whose last Grand Master curses King Philip the Fair and his descendants down to the thirteenth generation (hence the title of the series), the (presumed) poisoning of an infant king, just a few days old, the murder of the homosexual English King Edward II by the introduction of a red hot iron into “the place with which he hath sinned,” and many, many other cruel and extra-ordinary occurrences. Add to that a lot of internecine strife, backstabbing, intrigues, murders and passions, and you can see how The Accursed Kings has been an inspiration for certain events in my own books.
And that’s it. My books weren’t and couldn’t have been inspired or influenced by Martin’s Games of Thrones, but there is another connection. We are both longtime fans of Maurice Druon’s Accursed Kings.