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Fortune's Fool

Fortune's Fool

4.0 1
by Kathleen Karr

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CONRAD THE GOOD serves as court jester to a most unworthy master: Lord Otto “the Witless,” who rarely appreciates jesting and acrobatics and more often rewards his good fool with a good whipping. So one night, Conrad flees, leaving Otto’s realm in search of a more enlightened master—taking with him only his noble horse, Blackspur, and his


CONRAD THE GOOD serves as court jester to a most unworthy master: Lord Otto “the Witless,” who rarely appreciates jesting and acrobatics and more often rewards his good fool with a good whipping. So one night, Conrad flees, leaving Otto’s realm in search of a more enlightened master—taking with him only his noble horse, Blackspur, and his beloved, the servant girl Christa the Fair. As they take to the road, they soon learn that along with their quest comes hardship. But for all the hardships they encounter, there are as many unexpected joys and friends in unexpected places, and there is always their love for one another. And always, their destination lies before them: somewhere, a sanctuary where they’ll have the freedom to be together and be themselves.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
In this lively story of the Middle Ages, Conrad, a teenaged court jester, has had it with serving nasty Lord Otto. He takes off across Germany with Christa, the servant girl he loves, and his horse, Blackspur, in search of freedom and sanctuary. They pose as traveling entertainers, with Christa disguised as a boy, though she still attracts unwanted attention. On the road they meet up with a sweet, mentally challenged dwarf named Grock and save a boy named Max from hanging. Snowy weather presents challenges, and they must deal with bandits and other evil people as well before finding a just lord at last. Conrad's ingenuity and religious faith see them through, and Karr makes the medieval era come alive with appropriate vocabulary and expressions (which some readers may find challenging) and details of 13th-century food, dress and customs. Fine historical fiction. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal

Gr 7-9- Conrad, a court jester by birth, attempts to escape the whims of Otto, an unjust lord. Set in Germany in 1365, the novel portrays the teen's search for a new master. In the guise of a boy, Christa, a "serving wench," demands to follow her beloved Conrad, and they tromp around Germany entertaining priests, burghers, and lords. They pick up strays-a boy they cut down from the gallows and another jester. Conrad immerses himself in trouble by defending the downtrodden, usually at the expense of his own hide. Bargaining the construction of a giant clock for the Fortress of Rosenberg in exchange for their freedom from their new master, Conrad and his companions achieve some independence and a home. After a stiff beginning, the story warms up with enchanting characters who keep the pages turning. It is hard to deny Conrad's Robin Hood charm or the gallows cheat's wit. The romance between Conrad and Christa balances plenty of fighting and details of medieval society, giving appeal to both genders. Beyond the story, readers will find food for thought in the religious practices described-jesters could not be baptized or marry. The novel has minor flaws, however. The conclusion lacks Karr's usual focus. Given the generally realistic treatment of medieval times, Conrad's newfound Seigneur seems improbably democratic; and the final jollity is a tad chaotic, with numerous characters and merging story lines. Nonetheless, for readers who like medieval fiction, this title is consistently entertaining.-Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT

Kirkus Reviews
Wearied of whippings and scorn, a young Fool escapes his overlord and sets out in search of a more congenial employer in this robust 14th-century tale. Conrad has plenty of company on his quest-notably his beloved Christa, a serving girl who disguises herself as his apprentice, and Grock, a sweet-souled "natural" fool-and they face plenty of challenges on the road. Even in disguise Christa is the recipient of plenty of ardent looks (particularly from monks) and innuendo, but thanks to ready wits and strong allies the travelers triumph over all human-related hazards just as they manage to survive natural ones. Though unshriven (as, at this time, all entertainers were), Conrad is supported as much by his religious faith as he is by his ability to tease and rhyme his way out of the sticky situations his glib tongue also gets him into. Fortune at least seems to be smiling on him at the end, and his distinct narrative voice and sturdy optimism will put readers solidly on his side. (Historical fiction. 11-13)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
293 KB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Kathleen Karr is the author of many acclaimed novels for young readers, including Exiled: Memoirs of a Camel, Gilbert and Sullivan: Set Me Free, Born for Adventure, and Skullduggery. She lives in Washington, D.C.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Fortune's Fool 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
As an orphaned teenage jester in the court of a medieval German lord, Conrad doesn't enjoy the best treatment.

He entertains Lord Otto with acrobatics learned from his jester father, now dead, and he makes friends with others at the castle, but he sleeps in a stable and has few human comforts. When he receives a particularly painful beating for speaking out against Lord Otto's unjust taxing of the peasants under his control, he resolves to leave in search of his freedom, or at least for a lord who will not be as cruel.

He intends to leave alone, but his love, Christa, one of Lord Otto's servants, refuses to let him leave without her, and they travel the German countryside, Christa disguised as a boy. Along their journey they meet with hardships in the form of terrible weather, more cruel lords, and restrictive laws, but they also meet up with engaging characters. My personal favorite is a young boy, Second-Chance Max, whom Conrad and Christa save from death and who then travels with them, learning the ways of a jester.

It's a pleasure to watch the growth of Conrad from a boy jester who's still unsure of his place in the world to a young man capable of leading a company of friends in the jester's art.

This book paints a historically accurate picture of late 1300s Germany, and the author's enthusiasm for historical detail never gets in the way of the reader's understanding. If anything, it enhances the experience of the story. From the food Conrad eats to the people he meets to the places he sees, every detail helps to set the scene. It is a world in which his characterization seems natural and believable. The author includes a note upon the history of the time and a list of the sources she used for her research, so more ambitious or interested readers have an outlet for discovering more about the world of Conrad and Christa.