Cover of "The Prince of Darkness (Plantag...

Cover of The Prince of Darkness (Plantagenet 4)

Was King John of England, who died in 1216, an evil king?  Jean Plaidy wrote about him in her 1978 novel, The Prince of Darkness, and to her the answer is certainly yes.  It is not long before the book ends that John is forced to sign Magna Carta; before this he demonstrates not only how famously hot-tempered he is but also how infernally cruel, feckless, lustful and selfish.

The novel’s England can barely withstand the royal immorality here, and near the end the nation hits the skids, though not hopelessly.  The Prince of Darkness is gripping and engrossing, even if sometimes Plaidy nearly loses control of her sentences.  I don’t think there’s a shortage of historical accuracy either.