The Fool's Tale: A Novel

The Fool's Tale: A Novel

by Nicole Galland

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061743757
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 379,852
File size: 750 KB

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

The Fool's Tale

A Novel
By Nicole Galland

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Nicole Galland
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060721510

Chapter One


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 Chretien 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 Adele 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.


Excerpted from The Fool's Tale by Nicole Galland Copyright © 2006 by Nicole Galland. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Fool's Tale: A Novel of Medieval Wales 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 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 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 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
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.
Roylin on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The way to tell if a book is good is if the characters and stories stayed with you when you put the book down....this passed the test. Beautiful story about love, obsession, and betrayel of every kind. I enjoyed it alot even if it broke my heart a bit.
TheWasp on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Set in England in 12th century, the Welsh King Maelgwyn ap Cadwallon marries Isabel, the niece of an English Baron in an attempt to produce an heir and unite warring tribes. Isabel must vie for the King's affection with Gwirion, the King's fool. A quick light read.
FicusFan on LibraryThing 11 months ago
What a strange and compelling book. Although it purports to be historical fiction, it really isn't. It is a story set in an historical period. There is enough in the setting and the use of Welsh phrases and culture to make it historical fiction, but there is almost nothing of the real history or conflicts of the time. There is no real depth to the details about the conflicts, or the politics of the region. A summary of the people and their positions, and a brief explanation, but then it is left undeveloped. Galland brings it in when she needs an outside pressure on the main characters. But the historical issues are not the focus of the book.The story is about 3 people the Welsh King, Noble, his ill-defined companion, Gwirion, who can be considered a fool or a parasite, and the new English wife to the King, Isabel a Mortimer. The Mortimer family are long time enemies of the Welsh. They are forced together by the political marriage of Noble and Isabel in the small, backward Welsh Kingdom on the English border.The book goes on and on. It is over 500 pages though it covers only a year in their lives. There is activity at the start, and at the end, but the middle is rather spare of events. The author uses the time to build up the characters, their relationships and to make the reader care about them. Although the book is too long, it did work, I cared about them. The book also reads very, very quickly. Galland switches between the 3 as the POV, so that you get to know what is going on in all 3 of them. The story blends the characters with a narrator and is the perfect balance between detail and brevity. I kept reading, even though it was more of a romance than a true work of historical fiction. The setting and the writing style make it interesting to be in that world.We are never sure about Noble and Gwirion, but Isabel is very straightforward. Noble and Gwirion have a bond that stretches back to childhood. Isabel has to not only figure out Welsh customs and culture, and a new husband, but the strange Gwirion who can get away with any misbehavior and is the most important person in the world to Noble. Noble's close family have died, and he is exclusively heterosexual. The Welsh at court treat Isabel as an outsider, so there are no easy answers about Noble and Gwirion. At the same time, Noble and Gwirion have to change their lives to include this outside woman who belongs to the enemy camp.The ending of the book, is quite searing, and not something I saw coming. It makes the book worth reading.
bollix on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Excellent book-- a really different premise for a historical novel. No War of the Roses or Tudors in sight!
littlebookworm on LibraryThing 11 months ago
At the core of it, this book is about three people, and the relationships between them. Even the author says that. It is set in medieval Wales, but that matters little to the story as Galland basically ignores history and sets up her own story mostly exclusive of reality. For once, I didn't mind, because the characters were extremely compelling, and she didn't do much damage to actual history. Not much happens for most of the book except interaction between the characters, but that alone is enthralling. The ending threw me, even though I'd read reviews saying it was unexpected, and I think will cause the book to linger in my mind far more than it would have otherwise. I truly cared for Gwirion and Isabel. Noble, I'm not so sure of, because I found his ways callous and unforgivable. It is true that the characters didn't seem particularly medieval, but I really just took the story for what the author said it was - three people that could have been anywhere.Overall, this book is very worth reading, even for those who don't like historical fiction.
aratiel on LibraryThing 11 months ago
After finishing a compelling novel, it is increasingly hard to draw myself away from that world, and to once again engage myself in "reality." Rather like the dazed feeling of walking out of a movie in which you were completely involved, perhaps about a more romantic era long past, only to find yourself blinking in the bright sunlight of a modern parking lot. Upon finishing The Fool's Tale by Nicole Galland this evening, after I put the book down I was surprised to look around me and see only my untidy bedroom rather than the intricate world of a Welsh Kingdom which the author had created. Although love and "romance" in the modern sensibility is one of the main focuses of this book, it is by and large a historical novel, the political truths embellished slightly by the author, centering around three main characters, all equally enigmatic. The king of Maelienydd, known to his intimates as Noble, is the (literally) ferociously affectionate monarch of the small kingdom bordering England. He takes as a wife Isabel, the niece of an English baron, Mortimer, who just happens to have murdered his father. The marriage is nothing more than political, as marriages then so often were, but as the story continues Isabel is hard-pressed to live up to her part of the "bargain" in Noble's eyes, as she provides him fecundity in neither an heir nor strategic power. Throw into this mix Gwirion, the king's oldest and closest companion, a foundling who just happened to save Noble's life the day his father was killed by Mortimer, and with whom the king has a bond greater than blood or marriage. The new queen bestows upon him the English title of "fool," and that is certainly what he appears to be on the surface. More than that, he is the king's chief source of comfort. That is, until the disgust that Gwirion and Isabel regard each other with throughout half the novel turns to something else, something concocted almost by chance when they are held hostage together in the same room. As if the previous relations weren't tense enough, the rest of the novel had me on edge as the new lovers debate whether the king knows about them. On top of it all, the kingdom is being threated by all sides, English and Welsh. The characters really are hard to decipher, such as the king, who made me like him and hate him in turns, sometimes both at once. The crafty writing engaged me and drove me mad as sometimes I could guess exactly what was going to happen next, and other times what happened next completely floored me. Even when I suspected what was to become (the ending! wooo, if only you knew! but I'm not going to tell you), it shocked me when it did. That, indeed, is a creative force at work, one I envy. To foreshadow the outcome, but still leave you in tears (as it left me) in the end. Yes, the ending made me cry. Not uncommon, but this time the tears stung at my heart as I could actually feel a lover's empathy. The loss of love (have I betrayed too much?) made me miss my own all the more. All right, I'll say it. Why must good writers feel the need to kill off beloved characters? (J.K. Rowling, I'm talking to you too.) Sure, it gives off an air of Shakespearean-worthy tragedy, but I'd be just as content with a happily-ever-after. It's amazing, even to me, how much I'm affected by a fictional story. Two hours later, and I'm still fuming and mourning over the ending, as if the events had any personal effect on me. In a way, they have; forget that expression about eyes being a window to the soul. If you want the inside scoop on someone's soul, take a look at the books they read. I truly believe that each word we consume shapes our spirit, for better or worse, and in turn affects our demeanor. The Fool's Tale. A good book, you should read it, but now I'm off in search of something more lighthearted. Another Jane Austen, perhaps.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book kept me engaged to the end. And a great ending it was.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.