Thursday, February 26, 2009

Review: King's Fool by Margaret Campbell Barnes


Will Somers grew up the impoverished son of a country schoolmaster. He had no talent for farm work but had a quick, sharp wit. In this inventive novel, originally published fifty years ago, Margaret Campbell Barnes imagines how this young man came to be the confidant, even friend, of one of history's largest men, King Henry the Eighth.

Though he comes to live at court at the King's side, as his jester, Will loves and misses his first master, merchant Richard Fermor. He particularly misses Master Fermor's daughter, Joanna, whom he is madly in love with but knows that he is far below in terms of status and wealth. He despairs of ever winning her love and devotes himself almost monastically to King Henry and his court.

Through Will's eyes, we see each of Henry's six queens from an outside, and male, point of view. Good and honest Catherine of Aragon, scheming Anne Boleyn, bland Jane Seymour, foreign and intelligent Anne of Cleves, silly and empty-headed Kathryn Howard, and motherly Kate Parr. Of course, anyone so close to a royal person will inspire jealousy in some, and power-hungry Cardinal Wolsey and Cromwell are not exceptions. Life at court is not easy, but Will is privileged to have the King's ear and hears firsthand the reasoning and soul searching that go into the history changing decisions that Henry makes during his reign.

The special relationship between Will and Henry allows Will to ask special favors for those in need, and he does what he can to improve their lives by intervening with the King on their behalf. Eventually his generosity is rewarded in a way that exceeds his wildest dreams.

This historical novel is a great addition for anyone who enjoys Tudor fiction. It takes a unique and refreshing look at a well-known story. I found the male point of view and outlook very refreshing.

Margaret Campbell Barnes wrote several other novels about the Tudors, including Brief Gaudy Hour and My Lady of Cleves.

King's Fool is published by Sourcebooks, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4022-1902-3


Beth F said...

How does this compare to one written by (I think) Margaret George?

I know I'll be reading this one one of these days.

The Tome Traveller said...

That is the one Margaret George book that I haven't read, though it is here on a shelf....somewhere...I would like to get to it soon so that I can compare.

Teddy Rose said...

Wonderful review! I will be reviewing this in April. I'm looking forward to reading it!

Ladytink_534 said...

I have a first edition of Brief Gaudy Hour but I was never aware of her other books until recently. I really must get around to reading them!

Lana said...

I really liked that this was written from a male point of view as well. It made it stand out from a lot of the other books about the Tudors for me.

I enjoyed your review, so I've linked to you here

teabird said...

How interesting to see a different view of the queens - I really want to read this!

teabird 17 AT yahoo dot com

Valerie said...

The character of Will sounds fascinating
Good title too
KawaiiNeko2008 at aol dot com

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.