That’s not an apt enough description for the book in its entirety, far from it – but it does encapsulate my impression of its first quarter. And indeed, throughout I could never escape the impression that there’s something almost Shakespearean in Angela Boord’s Fortune’s Fool. The setting is inspired by Italian city-states in their hay-day, with all the backstabbing, trade rights and struggling for power. The story is heavy on personal drama, and is, when all is said and done, one of the most enjoyable love stories I’ve encountered in a long while.
Kyrra d’Aliente has lost everything. Once the only daughter of one of the most powerful noble families in the land, Kyrra is a gavaro, a mercenary for hire at the services of the highest bidder. Her story begins thus:
My right arm is made of metal.
A man named Arsenault made it for me, but he never told me its secrets. He didn’t have time. He gave me the arm and sent me to safety, then he rode off to die.
My arm shines like silver and withstands all weather and all blows, but it isn’t a dead thing. No leather straps attach it to my stump, no belts or buckles of any kind. The metal grows right into my flesh. From the sculpted whorls of my metal fingerprints to the dimple of my metal elbow, it might be the arm with which I was born.
Except that it’s not.
That arm lies rotting in a cedar casket I the ground beneath a cork tree, an arm of meat, kin and blood like any other woman’s.
Not that anyone can tell I’m a woman. I dress like a man and work as a gavaro, wielding my sword for coin. People know me as Kyris. But the name I was born with is Kyrra. Kyrra d’Aliente, only child of Pallo, the Householder of House Aliente.
It’s a hell of an opening. Everything about it is concrete, in the past, and the way the narration is handled introduces strong character voice in a way both memorable and interesting. After, it’s a bit overwhelming – plenty of names and events in short order aren’t easy to digest at first but bear with the first few chapters and you’ll find your way into the world of Renaissance not-Italy.
This novel adopts a familiar structure, interposing the events of Kyrra’s past in order to shine a light on her present. The tenses used, past and present, work well in this framework, and the change in tone is immediately felt. No confusion in that aspect, for which I salute the author; many have messed it up.
It’s length, while daunting, is excused by the story contained within… for the most part. I can’t escape the thought that some of the scenes weren’t necessary and may have been a little too padded out. Despite that, I was surprised when, upon finishing the last page of Fortune’s Fool, I immediately wanted to read more.
Of the three novels I’ve reviewed for booknest’s SPFBO scorecard, this brought me the most in terms of enjoyment. The prose is very fine indeed – I’m impressed by the skill at display here. Brood’s characters have that little something that makes you buy into the illusion of fiction, that makes you believe these are real people you’re reading about.
The action was serviceable for the most part, though several scenes stand out, especially the concluding one. Magic, gods – these elements awoke in me that sense of wonder and intrigue that’s one of the mainstay reasons as to why I read fantasy. Nothing Sanderson-esque about it, no element of a “hard” magic system; what is here goes for wonder and mystery. In that, it succeeds.
My score for Fortune’s Fool is an 8.5 out of 10. There’s a lot to enjoy in this book, and though it might not appeal to everyone, it did resonate with me in more ways than one.