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Publisher's Summary

King John is familiar to everyone as the villain from the tales of Robin Hood - greedy, cowardly, despicable, and cruel. But who was the man behind the legend? Was he a monster or a capable ruler cursed by bad luck? In this new book, best-selling historian Marc Morris draws on contemporary chronicles and the king's own letters to bring the real King John vividly to life. John was dynamic, inventive, and relentless but also a figure with terrible flaws. In two interwoven stories, we see how he went from being a youngest son with limited prospects to the ruler of the greatest dominion in Europe, an empire that stretched from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees. His rise to power involved treachery, rebellion, and murder. His reign saw oppression on an almost unprecedented scale: former friends hounded into exile and oblivion; Wales, Scotland, and Ireland invaded; and the greatest level of financial exploitation since the Norman Conquest. John's tyrannical rule climaxed in conspiracy and revolt, and his leading subjects famously forced him to issue Magna Carta, a document binding him and his successors to behave better in future.

©2015 Marc Morris (P)2015 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"The result is a traditional politics-and-war biography: a relentless succession of intrigues, quarrels, battles, sieges, negotiations, truces, and betrayals illuminated by lucid writing." ( Kirkus)

What listeners say about King John

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great Overview of King John

Enjoyed the book overall, but it was a little distracting, especially in an audiobook, at the beginning. the book jumps from his early reign to the reign of his father and brother. I don't think this would have been quite as detracting in print form.

2 people found this helpful

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The biased King John

Awkward organization, and very biased. Overall though, another solid effort by Marc Morris. Ralph Lister is very good.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting, but confusing

Why Morris bounces back and forth chronologically is not clear, and it makes the book very confusing. There is a tremendous amount of interesting material here, but going from Henry and Richard's reigns to John's and bavk againmakes no sense and is hard to follow. Otherwise, good book.

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Thorough but narrow

Very detailed blow-by-blow account of John's life and reign. Could have used more analysis of underlying causes.

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Illuminating and intelligent

Excellent biography of this medieval king. Well sourced, clearly written, entertaining and illuminating. Ralph Lister is an excellent narrator.

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Great Review of a Terrible King

There's no disputing that King John was treachery defined. Marc Morris's "King John" goes into all of the details. Sometimes he gives John an abundance of the benefit of the doubt, while other times he truly puts his life in perspective. There isn't much positive to say about King John. The fact that his rule was so awful that it lead to the Magna Carta says all. All told, the book is balanced when it counts. Ralph Lister's narration is excellent.