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Summary

A city ignited by hate. A man in thrall to power. The ferociously original award-winning bestseller by Poland’s literary phenomenon - his first to be translated into English.

It’s 1937. Poland is about to catch fire. 

In the boxing ring, Jakub Szapiro commands respect, revered as a hero by the Jewish community. Outside, he instills fear as he muscles through Warsaw as enforcer for a powerful crime lord. Murder and intimidation have their rewards. He revels in luxury, spends lavishly, and indulges in all the pleasures that barbarity offers. For a man battling to be king of the underworld, life is good. Especially when it’s a frightening time to be alive. 

Hitler is rising. Fascism is escalating. As a specter of violence hangs over Poland like a black cloud, its marginalized and vilified Jewish population hopes for a promise of sanctuary in Palestine. Jakub isn’t blind to the changing tide. What’s unimaginable to him is abandoning the city he feels destined to rule. With the raging instincts that guide him in the ring - and on the streets - Jakub feels untouchable. He must maintain the order he knows. Even as a new world order threatens to consume him.

©2016 by Szczepan Twardoch. (P)2019 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved. Translation © 2020 by Sean Gasper Bye.

Critic reviews

“Szczepan Twardoch has brought Poland back onto the world literature stage.” (Die Welt)

“Twardoch’s depictions of individual characters, atmospheres, and political currents are precise, vivid, and ecstatic, almost to the point of madness.” (Rolling Stone Germany)

“Ultimately, The King seems a study in extremes: love and violence, sympathy and revulsion, fantasy and reality. That Twardoch can balance these extremes is a testament to his skill.” (World Literature Today

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cant wait for the sequel

An extraordinary book, So well written and so atmospheric, I cant wait for its sequel the Kindom to become available

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Brilliant story but a bit violent

This is a classic novel, really quite stupendous but it contains descriptions of violence and bad language that might be offensive to some listeners.

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  • Sean
  • 20-08-20

The ending let me down

I was fascinated with this novel, and even more fascinated to find out the author isn’t Jewish as he captured Jewish masculinity and the Zionist ideal in such a powerful way. I could’ve easily given the book a 5 for its story but it’s protagonist/antagonist had a transformational moment as well as a paternal love that meant the ending didn’t make sense to me.

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  • Caleb Elgut
  • 14-08-20

One of the best thrillers in years.

Beautifully written and incredibly narrated. You can tell that the narrator speaks Polish perfectly and embraces each character’s personality very well.

One of the great crime thrillers! This book will go down in history.

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  • Dale Brunton
  • 09-06-20

Gritty, Real, Surprising!

I am a rare reviewer but I am compelled to write this time. Pre-WW2 Poland was the country in Europe that had highest percentage of Jews. Not only a large community, but diverse in every imaginable way. I could not find the time to confirm the historical fit of the background, but nor could I find anything to say it was not so. Originally written in Polish and translated into English, it reads authentically and draw you into that world.

The story weaves everyday life in the Jewish underworld life, its political protectors and adversaries, around the paradox of what is good can be bad and the other way around. Not for the faint-hearted, the book unemotionally studies how the depravity and cruelty that humans are capable of along with moments of compassion and selflessness.

The translation and narration is virtually flawless. Just the right amount of Polish was mixed in with the English to make feel real, and a distinct advantage of the audio book.

The print edition of this book was recently published, but it has been widely reviewed in a more skillful way than this one.