Was it a metamorphosis when the young Prussian prince, succeeding to the throne, put off his French finery and proceeded to remake the aggregate of states that his father had assembled into a model of enlightened despotism? Not altogether, and failure to show the significance of Frederick's previous studies and writings, focusing instead on his foppish ineffectuality and attempts to appease his boorish, tyrannical father, is the chief weakness of a generally discerning biography. Another is insufficient mapping: since much of Frederick's reign involved complex territorial wars, we need to see precisely what lands were involved each time in order to understand the text: the one map in the middle is incomplete and not even dated. Also, the specific battles in which Frederick demonstrated his mastery of strategy and the fast-breaking tactics that avoided annihilation are remote without routes and positions. The book is heavily laced with anecdotes, many of them amusing, most revealing; see especially a typical day at the palace, the long imbroglio with Voltaire. Historically, Frederick was both a beginning and an end: the measures he look to improve the well-being of his domain and his people -- codifying the law, abolishing censorship, establishing religious toleration, encouraging mining and manufacture, stimulating agriculture, revamping taxation could not long remain the prerogative of one man to initiate and administer. Which does not lessen his achievement; it's worth knowing, and there are no other juvenile biographies available.