This is a review I wrote some months ago when I received a copy of the original edition. Since then, the book has been re-issued, and is available in Kindle and paperback at Amazon
This historic novel takes us back to Florence in 1216, to a real event sparked by a bad joke that led to a vendetta. The joker in question was a hired professional Fool doing his employer’s bidding. The urgency of the Fool’s attempt to prevent murder while still staying alive himself makes Tinney Sue Heath’s story a page-turner.
The Fool’s hand-to-mouth existence as an entertainer contrasts with the pomp and pageantry in the knights’ castles, giving a balanced view of life more than eight centuries ago, in which the many characters appear as people whose destinies are tangled into a continuing tragedy.
The Fool is a citizen of thirteenth century Florence. Like everyone at the time, he is steeped in the rituals of his religion, but he is also resentfully aware that the church takes more care of the rich than the poor. He is no cynic, but he is an observer, a social critic, and a compassionate man with a taste of irony. He’s neither consistently good nor heroically brave — that’s for his “betters,” the quarrelsome knights. Unlike them, he’s self-critically aware, which makes him an honest narrator.
I liked him, and the story, a great deal. The details of the setting, the everyday life in thirteenth century Florence at high and low levels are the result of loving research, they enhance the story but they never overpower it. Fundamentally, this is an engaging read that repays reflection afterwards.