Fortune’s Fool

Fortune’s Fool (sequel to Master of Verona and Voice of the Falconer)

By: David Blixt

(http://www.davidblixt.com/)

Sordelet Inc. (April 23, 2012)

An historical fiction review

Blixt’s Star-Cross’d series has always been bursting with secrets, additional flavor for the action-filled plots.  Fortune’s Fool, however, allows secrets the place of prominence.  While plenty of incidents occur throughout this novel, the driving force behind this part of Blixt’s story is mystery.  Pietro Alighieri, Dante’s oldest son, finds his mission to the Avignon papacy opposed by a hidden foe.  Antonia Alighieri and Cangrande both face unknown malefactors.  Cesco encounters a mysterious assailant.  In the midst of grappling with religion, politics, and changing relationships, Blixt’s characters must deal with their personal puzzles and endure their separate trials.

This book differs from its predecessors in many ways.  The shift from action to mystery slows the pace, considerably where Pietro is concerned.  The overall isolation of the characters from each other for much of the story changes the personal dynamics not only for them, but for the readers.  The prior two novels highlighted a couple main characters, while this one’s focus is more spread out.  More significantly, this narrative brings a darker, more raw feel to the story.  While sex, malice, and the message that life is pain have always been a part of this story, Fortune’s Fool throws those elements front and center.  It feels like the middle of a story, where things get sticky and difficult to chew.  The discovery that Fortune’s Fool began as the middle of a longer sequel that had to be split up put this book in the frame I was comfortable with.  Blixt fleshed out this novel enough to hold my attention and build my intrigue, but it lacked that special luster I expect from finishing a Blixt book.  Knowing that there’s another installation to come in this arc explains everything.  The second part of any trilogy tends to offer more darkness and less gratification; if it holds up and builds the story then it works.  Fortune’s Fool certainly achieves that!       

This work contains many compelling pieces.  The verbal sparring remains brilliant, more side characters get a chance to shine, and we get a taste of new love.  The writing style is still excellent, if heavier.  The cast don’t get to play off each other as much, but their individual journeys keep them whole and emotionally connected to their audience.  In short, everything in this book works well.  As the second of a three-part installation, it works very well.  It would be even better if there had been something to chase that sticky, hard-to-chew, filling taste.  When you bite into that candy, you want the filling to be there, working with that sweet outer shell of chocolate.  Without that sliver of sweetness to encase it, the taste is missing an element of satisfaction.  Like a good filling, I enjoyed this book very much, but…now I want my chocolate shell.

The Master of Verona

David Blixt,
The Master of Verona
(St. Martin’s Press, 2007)

 

Finally, five years later, the two sequels to this book have been released!  It’s been so long they came out at the same time, together with the republishing of The Master of Verona as an ebook.  All are available and I cannot wait to dive, FINALLY, into the new material!  However, it has been five years, so first I reread this one.  I can not tell you that even knowing the ending and answers to the mystery, this book loses none of its power.  Best of all, now I can go straight on to Voice of the Falconer without waiting.  Hurrah!


The ambitions and fears of the Italian city-states of the 1300s have become so fierce and entangled that people look toward the stars and prophecies to find the man who can save Italy. Pietro Alighieri knows his father, Dante, believes that man to be Cangrande della Scala, the “Great Hound” who is The Master of Verona; and Pietro is about to meet him.

A wanderer with his exiled father, Pietro never felt the rigors of battle, or realized how far loyalty could push him. Yet, within days of his arrival in Verona he finds himself following others into war and making decisions that will keep him in the thick of it. Unbeknownst to Pietro, other choices will also place him in the midst of one of the most famous conflicts of all time: the feud behind the story of Romeo & Juliet.

Like Shakespeare, Blixt doesn’t just lay down his scenes, he masters them. The pacing is practically flawless, an amazing feat for a debut novel, but perhaps to be expected of a Shakespearian actor and director. Blixt offers each character a moment for sympathy, to be understood, but allows no one’s passion to overpower the momentum of his book. What readers need to know they find out with no confusion or overlong expositions, in defiance of the complicated details of the plot. Blixt also provides a level of intricacy in his combat scenes that gives them an intensity, a vibrancy that’s both rare and spectacular.

From envisioning his historical characters brilliantly and imbuing them with so much strength that readers can feel their presence even after the final page, to refashioning Shakespeare’s famed entities so cleverly that the details seem truly their own, Blixt’s cast demands both attention and emotion. It is not difficult to remember individual personalities in spite of the large number of characters and the varying titles accorded some of them. What is difficult is having to wait for the sequel, The Voice of the Falconer to arrive this fall.

Be wary of thinking a knowledge of Shakespeare will prepare you for all of the twists in store, as this story turns around mystery as well as fate. Moreover, the bard shares the page with Dante’s Inferno and its effects, which inevitably leads to literary analysis. Peppered with literary references, the historical stage of Verona’s golden age remains the prominent theme.  Here politics claim precedence even over love, where Blixt’s book treads rather lightly for a novel inspired by Shakespeare’s most renowned romantic tragedy. A genuine pleasure to read, The Master of Verona takes a city at the height of its power and breathes life through it from Hell to the stars.