Friday, February 12, 2010

REVIEW: The Fool's Tale by Nicole Galland

Set in 12th century Wales, The Fool’s Tale begins with a murder-that of King Cadwallon ruler of the Welsh Kingdom of Maelienydd. Even though he is assured safe passage through England by the King, he is struck down by Roger Mortimer who owns land adjacent to his welsh kingdom. His son Maelgwyn (nicknamed Noble) manages to escape also being slaughtered thanks to the boy’s companion Gwirion, a boy of low birth taken in by King Cadwallon.

The book jumps about a decade to adulthood. Noble is now King of Maelienydd and Gwirion is his Fool (and still closest friend), a position of great prestige but no power. In order to try to bring peace to his kingdom Noble agrees to a marriage with Isabel Mortimer-niece to Roger Mortimer, the man that murdered his father.

Isabel is brought to the Welsh court which she considers awful compared to the comforts she knew at her home in England. At first meeting Isabel and Gwirion instantly dislike each other, mainly because they are constantly jockeying for the #1 position for Noble’s affections. Gwirion always wins out which makes Isabel dislike him even more. To add to her misery, Noble has several mistresses and doesn’t even make the attempt to hide them from her and he constantly lets her know that the marriage is a political one and she is there to serve the purpose of birthing his heir.

When Noble and his men are called away to war Gwirion and Isabel are left at Cymaron castle which is surrounded and taken over by another Welsh Leader intent on making Noble swear allegiance to him. While imprisoned together the relationship between Gwirion and Isabel turns from one of hatred to love. Once Noble returns they must hide their relationship or risk his wrath.

I sped right through this book and loved every minute of it. I thought Noble was a total unfeeling Cad and I LOVED the character of Gwirion. I felt sorry for Isabel and her unloving marriage and hoped throughout the book that Noble would cast her aside so she could legitimately be with Gwirion. The opposites attract/forbidden romance thing has been done many times over but I still loved this one. The ending (which I will not give away) was sad.

Two things that weren’t really clear to me throughout this book were why was it that Gwirion was not allowed to leave Noble and his court and live his own life? I get that he saved Noble’s life and Noble wanted him there but at times the relationship between the two kind of came off as a master/slave relationship and it seemed odd to me. Also I know Gwirion suffered greatly at the hands of Roger Mortimer and his men but it never did tell exactly what they did to him. One other thing-there was a noble in the book who had a liking for stable boys which Noble handed over to him without a second thought. This infuriated Gwirion and part of the explanation given was “he was that stable boy once”. I thought a little clearer explanation of what exactly happened in Gwirion’s past would have helped.

Other than those few things that left me scratching my head I really enjoyed the story. I have Revenge of the Rose and Crossed: a Tale of the Fourth Crusade by this author on my shelf. I’ll have to try them out soon and see if I like them as much as I did this one.

If the FTC is wondering: This book is from my own personal library


  1. Sounds right up my alley actually. Have you read any Sharon Kay Penamn stuff? How would you rate it against that if you have?

  2. I have not read hers yet but I from what others tell me there are not many authors that can compare to SKP for historical fiction :) I have Sunne in Splendour, her Welsh Trilogy and a few others on my shelf but haven't gotten to them yet. Hopefully soon....