If murder be the food of love, slay on

I am extremely choosey about my mysteries.  I am often extremely wary of them failing me as the plot goes on, particularly if they boast a more intricate storyline.  And yet, I still feel complete confidence that the book I am currently reading will not disappoint me.  This is even more odd considering I’m a good way into it and not that much about the actual mystery plot has been revealed.  What hath wrought this miracle???

 

Thirteenth Night by Alan Gordon.  It boasts (spoiler-free):
-A JESTER in the role of detective.

-A Guild of Fools who secretly run the world via influencing politics, economics, etc.  Is that not just everything you’ve ever wanted?

-This Guild of Fools is a secret branch of the Catholic church! In other words, they are like Division in Nikita, only with motley!  This is a show that I need to see, some day.

-Shakespeare is involved.

-Random other folks like Francis of Assisi wander through.

-Depictions of medieval saint day observations are always fascinating and usually hilarious.

 

Hence, I already know that no matter what happens with the actual murder mystery, I will be happy reading the rest of this book, as well as the others in Alan Gordon’s Fool’s Guild series.

 

Note: This book has quotes atop every new chapter.  I have yet to come across a book that does that which I have not enjoyed.  Correction-I have yet to come across a book that uses real quotes atop each new chapter that I didn’t like.  There was one that had clearly made up sayings from people like Attila the Hun on them that…was a bit like popcorn with too much salt.  It still served its purpose as snack food and tasted fine for awhile, but then left you feeling thirsty with dissatisfaction and the knowledge that you have had much better.

 

King Richard III Day

Today is the day that Richard III took power!  However, during the Tudor dynasty Richard III became the target of one of the most successful slanders in history.  William Shakespeare could not afford to love the last Stuart ruler while under the Tudors’ reign.  Hence, Richard III became an ugly, vile character, as if Shakespeare decided:

“Since I cannot prove a lover, I am determined to prove a villain.”

 

Of course, good ol’ Will made the king so charismatic that he could use his play “Richard III” for other ends, as well:

Upon a time when Burbage played Richard III, there was a citizen grew so far in liking with him that before she went from the play she appointed him to come that night unto her by the name of Richard the Third. Shakespeare overhearing their conclusion went before, was entertained, and at his game ere Burbage came. Then message being brought that Richard the Third was at the door, Shakespeare caused return to be made that William the Conqueror was before Richard the Third.

— E. K. Chambers, William Shakespeare. A Study of Facts and Problems (1930), ii. 212
(from John Manningham’s Diary, Harl. MS. 5353, f. 29v, ed. J. Bruce (1868) ).

I just love that story.

 

The real Richard of Gloucester:

1. Was not a humpback.

2. Had nothing to do with the execution of his brother.  In fact, he even resigned one of his posts for a day so he wouldn’t be forced to have any hand in putting Clarence to death.  (Also, by all accounts Clarence was a really bad egg, particularly to Richard’s wife.)

3. Has lots of evidence that he treated his wife Anne well.

4. Was an excellent military commander.

5. May or may not have killed his nephews, the princes in the tower.  For the record, I happen to believe he is innocent, but the debate over who killed the princes is always fierce.  What better day to declare my side of it than that of Richard III’s triumph?

 

 

 

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.

Voice of the Falconer

Voice of the Falconer (sequel to Master of Verona)

By: David Blixt

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

Sordelet Inc. (April 23, 2012)

An historical adventure fiction review

 

Young Cesco is the hidden heir to Verona’s master, Cangrande della Scala, the foster child of Pietro Alaghieri and the rest of Dante’s family, and a mercurial eleven-year-old.  Voice of the Falconer brings Cesco to Verona with his entourage of protectors.  Through an onslaught of plots, surprises, and lessons, Cesco must make spectacular debuts, uncover secrets about his identity, and above all: survive.  Meanwhile, Pietro’s return finds him confronting both old friends and familiar demons.  With battles, intrigues, and references galore, this sequel retains all the momentum and excitement of its predecessor.

 

In Voice of the Falconer Blixt sets up all the players of “Romeo and Juliet,” enriching their characters and continuing to make them his own.  Entwining them with other Shakespearian tales like “Merchant of Venice” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” Blixt’s cleverness will delight fans and draw the Bard new ones.  Far from staying in Shakespeare’s shadow, these references spark seamlessly alongside history, prophecy, research, and philosophy.  Never less than an adventure, each aspect of Blixt’s novels carries multiple sides: passion, poetry, humor, mystery…Voice of the Falconer twists its cast through intriguing events without ever sacrificing depth of character.  This sequel’s ability to reintroduce readers to old friends after an eight year gap is impressive, but that pales to the achievement of showing such astute shifts in relationships and individuals through the novel.  Even laboring under the knowledge of many character’s deaths, Blixt’s portrayals give these people a marvelous wholeness and reality.

 

I’ve waited five years to read this sequel.  This book is worthy of that wait.  Its only problem is that I already care so deeply for many of these characters that remembering “Romeo and Juliet” grows painful.  Luckily, there is always one more quest for my heroes to follow, one more mystery needing to be solved, one more gorgeous sentence that I have to read twice.  Above all, there is so much of the plot left that I cannot foresee and that I absolutely need to know!

 

Blixt’s historical Italy was never a place for the faint of heart and this second book brings no relief, throwing readers through a gauntlet of anticipation, suspense, and wonder.  It’s a rough environment that not everyone will enjoy-definitely not a cozy, relaxing read.  For readers who thrive on challenging, intricate works, this is a gift for you.

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.