A full, rich fictional biography of Philip II of Spain, part psychological, part pageant, with a profusely detailed portrait of an era and the men who moved through it. A long book, and one demanding attention -- not light reading for the average reader. But Kesten is a sure craftsman, pointing up characters and events with dramatic irony and simplicity. Philip is seen as a cold, powerful man, the embodiment of absolutism, a man who enjoyed grandeur and beauty, the sublime and the cruel, and the manipulation of humanity to his own ends. He demonstrated his authority through continual foreign wars to maintain Spanish hegemony over Europe, through bloodbaths at home to sustain Catholicism against the rising tide of the Reformation. Worth reading.