The Fool's Tale: A Novel of Medieval Wales

The Fool's Tale: A Novel of Medieval Wales

3.4 51
by Nicole Galland
     
 

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Wales, 1198. A time of treachery, passion, and uncertainty. King Maelgwyn ap Cadwallon, known as Noble, struggles to protect his small kingdom from foes outside and inside his borders. Pressured into a marriage of political convenience, he takes as his bride the young, headstrong Isabel Mortimer, niece of his powerful English nemesis.

Through strength of

Overview

Wales, 1198. A time of treachery, passion, and uncertainty. King Maelgwyn ap Cadwallon, known as Noble, struggles to protect his small kingdom from foes outside and inside his borders. Pressured into a marriage of political convenience, he takes as his bride the young, headstrong Isabel Mortimer, niece of his powerful English nemesis.

Through strength of character, Isabel wins her husband's grudging respect, but finds the Welsh court backward and barbaric, and is soon engaged in a battle of wills against Gwirion, the king's oldest, oddest, and most trusted friend. Before long, however, Gwirion and Isabel's mutual animosity is abruptly transformed, and the king finds himself as threatened by loved ones as by the enemies who menace his crown.

A masterful novel by a gifted storyteller, The Fool's Tale combines vivid historical fiction, compelling political intrigue, and passionate romance to create an intimate drama of three individuals bound -- and undone -- by love and loyalty.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Screenwriter Galland debuts impressively with a steamy historical romance about a medieval Welsh queen's love affair with the king's best friend-his profane, hyperactive royal fool. The year is 1198, and King Maelgwyn (mercifully nicknamed Noble) of Maelienydd has wed the young Englishwoman Isabel Mortimer in hopes of neutralizing her uncle Roger, a powerful baron with designs on Noble's small kingdom. But almost from their wedding night, the political marriage of Isabel and Noble is a disaster: she is headstrong and tomboyish, "far from his ideal"; he is temperamental, tyrannical and unwilling to give up "nonconjugal fornication." Even worse for Isabel is his unfathomable relationship with the fool Gwirion, whose outrageous pranks and lewd public performances humiliate her. But when Noble goes off to fight Roger Mortimer, a siege on the castle by an opportunistic Welsh prince forces Isabel and Gwirion to confront each other, and to finally acknowledge their traitorous passion. Galland creates memorable characters-particularly Gwirion-who sound authentically regal yet earthy. She strikingly captures the murky Welsh setting and even murkier politics. The novel is occasionally short on plot, but readers will relish the energetic emotional back-and-forth of the protagonists' ceaseless trysting. Agent, Liz Darhansoff. (Jan. 4) Forecast: Galland's story of her charmed research trip to Wales (among other lucky breaks, a random couple invited her to stay with them while she wrote the book) could help rouse bookseller interest in this promising debut. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The plot of this first novel strongly resembles the saga of King Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot but with alterations of character and place (medieval Wales instead of Cornwall). The King, nicknamed Noble, believes that the end always justifies the means, while "Lancelot" is the king's companion and friend, a foundling of heroic spirit who lives on sufferance until he saves the king's life during an ambush. Noble maintains Gwirion as his fool, encouraging his pranks, indulging him with favors, and allowing him to ridicule everyone at court. Enter Isabel the bride, beautiful, intelligent, devout, and determined to win Noble's regard and put up with his imperial ways, including his fondness for the crude, scruffy Gwirion. The author's credentials from stage and screen work (Berkley Rep) are evident in her deft, dramatic dialog and pacing. This is less slick than James Patterson's The Jester but more believable. For all public libraries with historical fiction enthusiasts.-Mary K. Bird-Guilliams, Wichita P.L., KS Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A strange triangle of relationships exhaustively analyzed in a debut historical set in late-12th-century Wales. In the time when that small country is divided into four "kingdoms," young monarch Maelgwyn ap Cadwallon (a.k.a. "Noble") contends with external threats (from English barons whose lands abut his own northwest border) and quarrels with rival Welsh princes. A prologue recounts the preadolescent prince's escape during the Norman attack that brought his father Cadwallon's death, the escape accomplished through the courage and guile of Noble's boyhood friend, lowborn foundling Gwirion. Years later, the adult Noble weds aristocrat Isabel Mortimer (daughter of his father's mortal enemies), hoping to cement truces and strengthen his kingdom's preeminence. But Isabel "fails" to bear him an heir and haughtily endures her unwelcome marriage (to a sovereign who prefers to bed comely kitchen wenches) and the impudent wit of Gwirion. The latter, now ensconced as Noble's court jester (or "fool"), is an inveterate prankster whose brazen disrespect for all authorities sometimes amuses the indulgent king, and sometimes puts Gwirion's very life in real peril. Things change when, after Noble goes off to battle, his castle is captured by Welsh invaders and his queen and fool are imprisoned together-and, to their mutual amusement and horror, start to fall in love. The long aftermath of these developments forces Noble (having recaptured his castle and his power-and eventually having realized how grievously he's been betrayed) to consider ridding himself of the one betrayer he considers expendable (for "Gwirion was nearly the only constant in the king's life since infancy. He could not be so rudelydispatched"). Galland's impressively researched potboiler suffers from random anachronisms and tends toward the underplotted. But the characters of Isabel, Noble, and especially Gwirion are deftly drawn, and racy depictions of their fateful interactions become quite compulsively readable. Not a major historical novel, but a highly entertaining one. Agent: Liz Darhansoff/Darhansoff, Verrill, Feldman

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060721510
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
01/24/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
1,199,693
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.22(d)

Read an Excerpt

Enemies

May Day, 1198

Sabel was old for a bride, nearly twenty, and orphaned with little dowry beyond her bloodline. She was considered a great beauty in her own country -- small and boyish in build, with an intelligent, squarish face and a high, graceful forehead -- and supremely desirable for her education, skills, and absolute lack of feminine triviality. But she had always known she'd be married for politics. It never bothered her; until she'd heard Chrétien de Troyes's romances of Lancelot and the Round Table, at the age of thirteen, it had never even occurred to her that there could be other reasons to bind herself to a man. She remembered Adèle chasing away the minstrel reciting them, then chastising Isabel for corrupting her own wits and sense. So she had never dwelt on the possibility of romantic love. But she'd assumed a match would at least be within her own race, and she had been taken aback when her uncle Roger had revealed her suitor's identity: not only a Welsh prince, but the only prince still referred to by the English chroniclers as "Rex" -- King. A small kingdom, and a poor one, but she would be a queen. And the king, when she'd met him, was so disarming and handsome and his accent so melodious that it had made her knees weak, although she was hardly the sort to get weak knees. When the date was set and the terms agreed upon, she had spent a fortnight smiling to herself.

But that smile waned on the journey to a land that was far too alien, considering it began almost at her childhood doorstep.

They had left the homey fields of England for windy Welsh hillsides, hillsides carpeted by dead bracken that looked like russet snow, and nothing else for miles at a stretch but grass and prickly gorse -- not a tree, not a house, not even a rocky outcrop to vary the landscape. Nothing but herds of white sheep and black cattle being driven upland for what passed as summer. The songbirds had been cacophonous, magpies and curlews, red kites and buzzards perched on the skeletons of sheep that had not survived the winter. In England there had been farmers, already sowing, bowing respectfully as they passed; here they'd found undernourished peasants digging up peat under the damp grey sky and pointedly ignoring them. Isabel tried not to be disheartened by this; she hoped she could eventually make these people understand that not all Normans were butchers. Below them, the valleys and lower hillsides were impassable bogs shadowed by dense groves of scrub oak (considered by the natives sacred and haunted), so the ancient Roman roads had kept them high on the slopes, windblown, chilly and exposed. She had known it would be highland, and she'd thought that meant mountains, which would have at least been interesting. The first few hills had been promising, with lovely sweeping views of river valleys, but by the time they were well into the kingdom, the entire country was high, with decidedly undramatic undulations from valley to hilltop -- there were no peaks to speak of anywhere. It looked, her brother Thomas had muttered, like the English moors flung over a gigantic bowl of lumpy porridge. Wigmore Castle was only a day's ride off but in that day she had been transported farther away than her pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela had taken her.


Gwirion had been incensed when he'd learned the wedding was set for May Day, and the Spring Rites canceled because of it. ("Usurped," he'd protested, "by a Mortimer, by a bitch of an English virgin.") When the king warned him not to use this public gathering as a chance to make sport of anybody, Gwirion had rebutted that he would never condescend to dignify the occasion by immortalizing it with a prank of any sort. And so the entire castle population knew there would be trouble.

It was May Day at last. Boughs of birch twigs hung over windows and everyone wore brilliant colors -- even the usually bedraggled dwarf Corr wore green hose under his linen tunic. The one exception was Gwirion, who had donned sackcloth to mourn the end of the king's finest years as a bachelor. He insisted the day was too splendid to waste on a wedding, particularly one involving Mortimers, and would have avoided it altogether if Corr had not begged him otherwise.

"You know how ladies react when they see me for the first time," he lamented, his colorless lashes blinking almost spastically in the sunlight. "If you're beside me I can pretend to myself it's partly your hideous mug."

Gwirion grinned at this and then a thoughtful gleam warmed his eyes. It was a look Corr was all too familiar with.

"Whatever you are thinking of thinking," he said, "don't think it."

"It seems to me," Gwirion mused, ignoring the request, "that we've never fully exploited that particular aspect of your appearance."

"I doubt she'll give us much satisfaction that way. I've heard she has a sensible head on her shoulders."

Gwirion considered this. "But what has she got on the rest of her?" he asked. Rhetorically.

Corr sighed in capitulation. "And how severe a whipping will this be bringing us?"

Gwirion lowered his voice even though they were yards above the crowd. "This wedding is an invasion. She'll try to coerce us to join her Norman civilization." A loaded pause, and then he grinned. "If we're expected to become like her, why don't we just become her?"

The two of them stood atop the king's tower, watching people mill about in anticipatory disarray around the ashes of the Beltane bonfires in the courtyard below. They descended the wooden stairs that hugged the stone curtain wall, bickering over the details of their plot, and began to scout for the bride's brother. He was a younger brother, named Thomas, and he was hardly in whiskers. Gwirion discovered him by the stables.

Meet the Author

Nicole Galland's five previous novels are The Fool's Tale; Revenge of the Rose; Crossed; I, Iago, and Godiva. She writes a cheeky etiquette column for the Martha's Vineyard Times. She is married to actor Billy Meleady and owns Leuco, a dog of splendid qualities.

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The Fool's Tale: A Novel of Medieval Wales 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
BookaholicJH More than 1 year ago
A wonderful story set in 12th century Whales. The locales in the book are wonderfully descriptive and detailed to preceision of the era. The characters are engaging and beliveable and developed so the reader actually cares about them. The story is much more than a historical romance...as the personalities of the characters drive and evolve as you progress through the story - so entracing, in fact, that you can't stop reading (at least I couldn't) The Fool's Tale is a charming (sometimes sarcastic) romp through an era long since gone. I fully recommend it......................I Also Recommend: Mary Stewart's Legacy collection (Merlin's Saga) A timeless masterpiece that has been captivating readers for decades.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was so pleasantly surprised once I started reading this story. I fell in love with Gwirion from the first chapter, and found myself bursting out in hysterical laughter because of his completely crazy antics. I think Nicole Galland should be applauded for creating such a charasmitic, funny, real, and charming character. His creation is something that I don't think many authors could have done. In reality his presence in this story is what makes the tale so entertaining and what makes you not able to put this book down.I haven't loved a character this much since Jamie in Diana Gabaldon's series. Her ability to incorporate so much light hearted humor into a historical novel is what makes this book so refreshing. It's a nice change from the usual serious, morose, and monotonous tone that is used so often in historical novels. If you are looking for a historical novel that has character depth, instead of the usual 2D tale that recites events, read this book! You will not be dissapointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wanted more kings and history and less love-making between fools.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was expecting more history and less fiction, since this was listed under the 'history' category. I also found it ridiculous that the 'f' word was used in this book about something that took place in 1199. As a fiction book, I thought it was pretty good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How are there any good reviews for this book?! I'm sure these people could not have read this with their eyes open because everything about this was terrible! Good god, TERRIBLE!!! I'm honestly stunned that this is even catagorized under historical fiction... sure- it's fiction but there is SO little history involved here; I can't imagine the author's research went beyond reading a few Wikipedia pages. It's that bad. There is so much to remark upon but little that won't "spoil" it (and I'd be doing you a favor by giving away the hysterical ending). I never write reviews but if you're like me and have to finish a book no matter how stupid it is- please let me save you the time and don't bother with this. Ugh such garbage :(
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader, and have read upwards of 300 books. This novel is in my top 10. Engaging characters, quick pace, and a twisting plot kept me surprised and glued to the pages. I have read several novelsby Nicole Galland and this one is by far her masterpiece. I laughed, I cried, and long after the last page I continued to go over the story in my head. This book encompasses every genre from drama, comedy, to romance. And at the end of the book you are just left in awe. If you enjoy an engaging drama and love fascinating characters reminiscient of Dickens's creations then this is the book for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After this, I will read her other books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I selected this book because the cover caught my eye and the description on the back intrigued me enough for me to purchase it. Normally, when I pick up a book, I can become totally immersed within the first chapter. However, with this book, it took me until about I was about 1/3 of the way through. In fact, as person who usually devours a book within the week in which I purchased it, it was very much non-typical for me, since it took about 2 months to get through the first third, since it languished on my bedside table. Once I finally got past the initial part of the book, I was drawn in enough to feel for the characters. I felt the Lady's distress with the dangerous game she was playing with the Fool. I felt revulsion for the way that Noble "ruled" his kingdom. I was heartily glad that I did not live in such a time. I was actually disturbed by the book. I couldn't believe that the Fool could be so blind to the capriciousness of his friend, Noble. I was horrified by the callousness of Noble's leadership style. I was revolted by the part in which Noble ordered the hunting dogs killed (I'm a big dog lover and this part was so incredibly cruel that I almost cried). I was annoyed with the Lady's stupidity in thinking that she had any power in her relationship with her husband. This book was so unlike most of the historical fiction I have read, that it's hard for me to classify it. If someone had told me about the twists within the book prior to my purchase, I probably wouldn't have bought it. In a way, the characters were very one-dimensional and I didn't like their stupidity at times. That being said, it was very well written and (I'm sure) very well researched historically. I liked the fact that there was a little historical note at the back. I'm sure that this sort of situation could have happened countless times back in the historical period in which it was set - I just don't like to read such tragic stories. Hence, this book wasn't for me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was listed as historical fiction. Fiction it is...it is not historical. This book is devoted to the physical side of relationships and jealousy. Verbal abuse, physical abuse and mostly crude, illogical characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrible
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After a promising start, the story just bogged down into useless details and pointless sex. Needs gutted and edited.
Equineamy More than 1 year ago
I don't know where the good reviews for this book came from, but it was terrible. I NEVER leave a book unread, even if I don't like it I will skip to the end to see how it turned out...not this book. It has so much potential but falls flat in nearly every circumstance. The characters are not endearing or believable (very shallow and not developed at all), there is no coherent direction for the plot, and the dialogue is not engaging. Don't waste your money!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book started out very well, and is well written, but focuses more on the relationships than the history or stories.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is impossible not to fall in love with Gwirion and your heart just goes out to him. as the story progresses, you find that Noble values Gwirion more than anyone but he also doesn't want Gwirion to have love or value anything more than him. I can't get this whole story out of my head. and the ending will really get you.
Anonymous 7 months ago
This book kept me engaged to the end. And a great ending it was.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was surprising with characters you will love. The author keeps the pace throughout the story with a powerful ending.
riggins More than 1 year ago
this is an enjoyable read. It is pure fiction, but does depict the stormy relationship between the Enlish Norman rulers and the Welsh during that period in history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had high hopes for this book and kept reading thinking it would pick up. The pace was slow and could be edited down and not lose any of the story. The characters weren't likeable and I didn't really care what happened to any of them. I rarely quit reading a book after I start, but I should have cut my losses with this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago