Behind the grandiose title, sound popular history in a plain, well-paced style. The organization is admirable: Mr. Blitzer is content to stay in one place long enough to follow a sequence of events or to probe the content and consequences of au individual achievement. The age of kings is of course the seventeenth century, which began with dynastic and religious conflict (The Thirty Years' War) and ended in rivalry between territorial states; in between, the Sun King made himself the substance of power and his court the spectacle of majesty, the Baroque style reconciled order and motion in a corresponding synthesis, science reconstituted the universe, Descartes perfected it, Pascal questioned that perfection (as Louis' order was itself being questioned)s and the English found a new answer--constitutional monarchy. Some of the pictorial inserts--especially the Bernini spread--are telling extensions of the text, others are merely evocative. This one can be read for an understanding of the period, for particular information, even for pleasure.