I really liked this book! I enjoyed Galland’s last effort, The Fool’s Tale, but this one definitely improves on it. The story begins with Willem and Lienor of Dole, brother and sister whose friend, the minstrel Jouglet, has great plans for them, involving a trip for Willem to the emperor to become a knight. The tale is very loosely based on the medieval poem “The Romance of the Rose”, and I mean loosely – the author admits herself that she changed and embellished freely. She also lays no claim to historical accuracy, so I will not be commenting on that here. Any author who excuses him or herself in order to prevent readers from claiming the book’s fiction as truth has gained my appreciation.
The book was amazingly well plotted. I couldn’t imagine all the twists and turns the author had going. I struggled with guessing what was going to happen and worried over the characters’ fates, particularly towards the end. I could hardly believe how clever it was. In addition, the wit is perfectly suited to the tradition of medieval courtly love, while subtly showing us what may have gone on behind the scenes. I laughed often. I think Galland did a wonderful job of getting across the teasing nature of such interchanges; we now can hardly imagine that this devotion would be false, but she shows that it wasn’t necessarily the case.
Jouglet was a great character and worked very well as a center for the novel. The rest of the characters almost felt like supporting cast to Jouglet, but I liked almost all of them, and Galland includes one character with an extreme moral dilemma. Watching him shows off her talent for getting so close to reality and human emotion.
Also, the ending was amazing. It made me very happy.
Something else I enjoyed about this book was how different it was from The Fool’s Tale; even its tone was different and I’d hardly have been able to tell that it was written by the same woman. I think Galland is a talent to watch for. I’ll certainly be buying her next book. Honesty, compelling characters, and brilliant writing – I couldn’t ask for that much more. It’s probably not accurate middle ages, but as I’m not expecting that, I’m very happy to recommend this as great historical fiction.