This is a fictional version of the life of Frederick II (1194-1250), King of Sicily and German Emperor, written in the first person singular. This choice of viewpoint is singularly unfortunate. The book is neither truly objective (although it has been closely researched) nor a good novel, except in bursts; facts are displaced, and the Emperor's accounts of his love affairs, with men and women, are apt to read like True Confessions, while his recitals of his triumphs often sound like Little Me. This is a pity, since much of Frederick's life was fascinating. A king in a superstitious and bloody era, who began in obscurity and fear of his own life, Frederick knew many languages and peoples and had a curiously scientific bent; he wrote treatises on birds and hawking, carried out odd experiments, and fought a lifelong war between established religion and superstition and his own ideas of a stable, rational rule. Bits and impressions of his life emerge from this narrative, now told personally, now in fairly straight descriptions of campaigns, architecture, conflicting ideas, but Frederick and his times are too complex for such mixed treatment. The book, for all its knowledge and interesting stretches, is badly in need of a more unified presentation.