Review: The Beggar King – Oliver Pötzsch

beggar kingAmazonCrossing is Amazon’s new venture into translating world literature into English.  An interview with Jeff Belle, the head of Amazon Crossing suggests that this is a genuine attempt to rectify the imbalance in translations (far more books are translated from English than into English).   No doubt there are also strong commercial motives for setting up AmazonCrossing, but anything which brings more translations into the English language is to be welcomed.

The first major success of AmazonCrossing was Oliver Pötzsch’s Hangman’s Daughter and they have followed this with a new book in the same series, The Beggar King which is available in either paperback or Kindle editions.

Oliver Pötzsch is a descendant of one of Bavaria’s leading dynasties of executioners and so has an interest in basing his series of historical novels on the hangman of Schongau, Jacob Kuisl, and his daughter Magdalena.  The book opens with a short prologue set in 1662 during the 30 years war which gives readers a glimpse of what rape and pillaging meant for a peaceful rural community.  It is worth noting the names of those involved for they will feature 25 years later in the book we are about to read.

Jakob Kuisil leaves his home-town of Schonburg to travel to the regional centre of Regensburg where his sister is reportedly dying of cancer. Back in Schonburg, Jakob’s daughter Magdalena has troubles of her own.  Her boyfriend Simon is a partially-qualified medical doctor and between the two of them they have uncovered corruption in the home of a city dignitary who has poisoned one of his maids who he made pregnant.  When Magdalena’s home is attacked and burnt in retribution for their discovery, the two lovers decide to follow Magdalena’s father to Regensburg to try to make a new life for themselves, not knowing that they are going to get embroiled in a much bigger scandal behind the heavily guarded walls of the city.

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