Posted On July - 6 - 2009
  PAGES:   292
  RATING:   18+
  RELEASE DATE:   06/10/2009
  REVIEW DATE:   07/06/2009

Ludwig II is a luxuriant historical romance set in Eastern Europe against the backdrop of war, assassins, political coups, and a dangerous love affair that may be a king’s only chance at happiness.

You Higuri, the author of the popular Gorgeous Carat and Canterella series, has outdone herself in this splendid and enthralling epic romance. Ludwig II is the story about the real life king of Bavaria, a land currently under pressure by Prussia, Ludwig faces enemies in many courts, including his own. As the threat of war rises, the deft Ludwig must carefully maneuver his aides and allies, some more loyal than others, in order to keep his dream of creating a beautiful land unparalleled in aesthetics. Nicknamed the Swan King as well as The Fairy King for his love of beauty and grandiose castles and expenditures on the arts, he has supported Wagner and others to promote beauty in his realm. However, he holds a darker side, the same side which has garnered him the name the Mad King.  Tending towards fits of paranoia and violence, many fear him, even those loyal to him. His royal blood is believed to hold a curse and with it, he fears his madness will grow day by day until it will one day completely consume him.

When he sees the lovely groomsman Hornig, it is love at first sight. At first Ludwig aggressively takes what he wants, but that soon turns to regret and tenderness for the pure hearted young man who serves him so devotedly. That devotion is quickly put to the test when Hornig’s brother takes advantage of Hornig’s position with the king to try to steal from the royal treasury.

The lovers have much to adjust to. Although Ludwig deals with all trials with a grace and rare insight that belie the title of madness, the innocent Hornig struggles to understand the ways of court and the deadly intrigue it can hold. Sometimes it is a simple matter of royal obligation that can tear at the heart of those unprepared for the demands of duty. This occurs when the desire of the parliament for an heir pressures Ludwig into a betrothal with the Duchess Sophie. She’s a lovely girl, but Ludwig only feels fondness for her like a sister while he spends his nights with Hornig. When Sophie finds out the truth, an assassination attempt follows with Hornig as the target!  He is about to receive a deadly lesson on what it means to be the king’s secret lover and the risk that entails.

When Ludwig is reunited with his kindred spirit, the wild spirited Empress of Austria Elizabeth, it is not an entirely happy reunion. Assassination attempts by an anarchist group threaten to make their reunion a final one. The rescue attempt to save the empress proves a bittersweet one as both she and Ludwig are shown as birds, caged by their royal birthrights and positions, longing for true freedom that will not be found in this world.

One chapter shows Ludwig’s bouts of madness as he finds himself lost in the world of dreams and being seduced by the magical Swan Knight from Wagner’s opera. Can Hornig’s simple yet total devotion save him from himself?

While conspirators grow in number, Ludwig faces enemies on all sides and some of them choose to target Hornig. When Hornig is brutally attacked, he leaves the side of Ludwig for fear that he is now spoiled in is king’s regard. When he receives a token from the king, it could well prove to be the key to his heart. But will enemies and the turbulent lives of these two lovers allow them to be reunited?

The author offers an exceptional blend of fact and fiction. She has cleverly and diligently worked in the real life loves of Ludwig, the King of Bavaria, and the historic events surrounding his life. In fact the lovely illustration style holds an impressive rendition of one of the actual castle he builds. The story telling was so wonderfully engrossing that I went and double checked much of the history mentioned in the manga and was deeply impressed by the accuracies found there. Ludwig was reportedly involved with a groomsman, he did have very close relations with certain people in his life that are mentioned in the manga, such as Taxis, another male. Therefore this yaoi, which involves fiction in regards to the details of Ludwig’s affair with Hornig, is rich with historical facts and the people within the tale. It is a spellbinding blend of historical romance, intrigue and fiction illustrated beautifully by the manga-ka.

A sweeping historic romance graces the pages of the lush artistry and involving saga of the “Mad King” of Bavaria and the love of the man that may be his only salvation in the manga Ludwig II.

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