First of a trilogy on the Norman Kings, this is a lifeless runthrough (more so than most Plaidy) of the career of William the Conqueror. After a violence-ridden youth, William, bastard son of Duke Robert and touchy about his half-lowly parentage, becomes the most powerful man in northern France. Next step: brutal romance with the tempestuous but conveniently masochistic Matilda of Flanders. And then, in 1066, in all of two pages of battle, Hastings and the crown of England. The rest is anticlimax--adolescent civil wars within the family. Plaidy plays fast, loose, and just plain wrong with the history, rarely mentioning dates, putting people in the wrong locations at the wrong times, and tossing in chunks of old, undigested legends. And William's subtle diplomacies get a tenth-grade civics class treatment; lengthy attention is given instead to mounds of physical description and pseudo-authentic dialogue like ""I must to your father"" and ""We must needs wait."" Musty, indeed, and those who expect the fun that Plaidy can generate among 17th-century royal ladies will be sorely disappointed.