Thursday, July 29, 2021

NetGalley ARC | Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages


I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

(I complained on Twitter about not getting approved or denied so maybe Dan Jones told them to give me a copy just so I would shut up about it.)

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I know, I know.

I obviously can't be objective because it's Dan Jones, is what you're all thinking.

Well, I CAN!

This book is just THAT GOOD.

Literally all of my favorite people, places, and things from history, in one ginormous volume, covering roughly 1,000 years of everything that happened from the Fall of Rome to those Tudors coming in and shaking things up.

We're talking this one might be rivalling The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England as my most fave Dan Jones book. That's HUGE. I first learned about Eleanor of Aquitaine from The Plantagenets so Dan Jones basically named my baby. (Side note: I always remind Eleanor that she is so lucky that I learned about Eleanor of Aquitaine BEFORE Boudicca, or she might have a very different name.)


You also might be thinking, "Do we need ANOTHER book about the Middle Ages?"

Again, the answer is yes.

What Jones has managed to do once again is combine his massive amount of knowledge, tying it all together across place and time, and present it in a highly informative yet highly readable way.

I was lucky to have teachers who really made history come alive for me, even going back to middle school. History has been my love for as long as I can remember. I get that non-fiction is not for everyone. A lot of people don't even give it a chance because history was taught to them in a boring recitation of facts and dates and names.

This book though, is something different; an extraordinary feat that Jones should 100% be proud of. (And I assure you he is, because who wouldn't be?)

He brings these historical figures to life and makes them real once more. It's hard sometimes to think about people this way, to imagine them living and working and dying in a world so different from our own. But Jones has the skill to share this knowledge and research in such an engaging way that you feel as though you could actually reach back in time and walk along Hadrian's Wall (which you actually can do if you're in the UK, which I am not and that is sad), to sit in a Great Hall and take in all the sights and sounds and smells of life at a royal court, to race along the Asian Steppes with Genghis Khan, watch as Rome is sacked time and again (six altogether in this span that Jones covers), and more.


Really, truly. I was actually nervous about how I was even going to write up this review because there is so much material to address. Otherwise I would have had it up days ago.

Just for fun, let's take a look at all of my Goodreads shelves I added this book to, so you can get an idea of everything you'll find. I am selective in how I add non-fiction texts to my various shelves. If something is mentioned in passing and gets barely more than a paragraph, then no it does not qualify. If it is discussed in-depth or is used in a way that makes more clear the topic at hand, on the shelf it goes. They are as follows:

                        Ancient Rome    Medieval Europe    Middle Ages    Roman Britain    Asia   

Eastern Europe    Goths/Visigoths/Ostrogoths    Byzantium    Plague    Middle East    

Military History    Islam    France and the French    Carolingian Dynasty   

 Merovingian Dynasty    Vikings    Christian History    Plantagenets    King Arthur

    Wales    The Crusades    Eleanor of Aquitaine    Spain and the Spanish    

Mongols and Mongolia    Russia    Business and Leadership    Anglo-Saxon England

    Castles and Palaces    Christian Holy Places and Relics    Climate Change   

 Medicis    Joan of Arc    Architecture    Art    Explorers    Mexico    Popes   

 Germans and Germany    Tudors    Gauls and Franks

Quite a bit of information, no?

And if that's not enough, there are plenty more topics that would probably have justified the creation of a new shelf to accommodate it, but I chose not to. I couldn't even list all the labels on this post because there is a character limit.

I really love how Jones divided up each section. First there is Imperium, Latin for what amounts to absolute power, which Rome once had, which covers 410-750. Here we find chapters on the Romans, Barbarians, Byzantines, and Arabs.

Next comes Dominion, spanning 750-1215, with sections entitled Franks, Monks, Knights, and Crusades.

Third is Rebirth, 1215-1347, detailing the time as it related to the Mongols, Merchants, Scholars, and Builders.

Last comes Revolution, 1348-1527. We learn of Survivors, Renewers, Navigators, and Protestants.

As you might expect, there is an extensive section of notes and from Jones you should expect no less. The text ended at 77% in my advanced digital copy, with notes taking up the next 13% of the content. Primary sources cover another 4%, with journal articles and theses ending at 96%. The remainder right up to 100% is footnotes.

I can promise that if you pick this one up and settle in for a good bit of reading time, you will not be disappointed. Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages is the new standard against which to measure all other books covering the same topics.

Without a doubt, this is the best book of 2021 for me and I don't believe that anything the rest of the year can top it.

Highly, highly, highly recommended.


  1. Yes we can never have enough books about the Middle ages. Well, maybe we can, but not GOOD ones. And this may be the Dan Jones book I finally try (thanks to your rather lukewarm recommendations ha right) :) Seriously though- adding this one because I want to immerse myself in a fabulous history of the Middle ages now.

    1. YES!! Although I insist you also read The Plantagenets as well. So so good. Both are. Just read all his books, lol

  2. i'll definitely keep this one in mind!

  3. Okay, this one is going on my TBR list.

  4. Cool! I’ve been looking around for books about REALLY OLD history. I feel like my schools mostly focused on the 1700s to the mid-1900s. My knowledge of history outside of those times is shaky. Maybe I need this book.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. This is definitely the book for you. He covers so much ground, it is mind-boggling. Really really great read. I hope you love it.

  5. I've been meaning to dive back into the Middle Ages to flesh out my history reading between 1066 and Victorian England. I might just add this one to my list........ [grin]

    1. There is no 'might' about it! Read it! lol

      Actually, read The Plantagenets also. It's my most most fave but this one is so good, they might be tied.

  6. I never tire of reading about the medieval epoch...this may be a good place for me to start with him, since there are varied topics! :)

    1. Absolutely the best place to start if you are looking for the big picture and not just one country in the middle ages. And it's one of his very best books, though they're all fantastic.


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