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Review: King’s Fool, Margaret Campbell Barnes

When Will Somers hits puberty and loses his beautiful singing voice, he is at a crossroads in his life, not only a disappointment to himself but also to his father.  An accident brings Master Richard Fermor to the farm of Will’s uncle, and an even happier coincidence leads to Will’s employment with the Fermor family.  Will becomes good at his clerking, but retains a love for performance, which he can’t resist showing off at the king’s court when he accompanies his master.  Henry VIII is diverted by the sight and immediately hires Will as his fool.  At court, Will is witness to history.

At first I was a little put off by this book’s slight historical inaccuracies, but quickly realized that the author had died in 1962 and historical understanding was completely different then.  Barnes could have easily done all the research available to her and I would still find fault with it, so I threw everything I knew out the window and just tried to enjoy the story, and enjoy it I did.  The writing isn’t dated at all and I knew it was a re-release, but I don’t tend to start with the author bio when I go to read a book.  I will admit that I was perplexed in other ways by the beginning; though Will moves around a lot, the story wasn’t excessively interesting until he reached court and Henry’s service.

I thought it interesting that though Will is the “fool”, he’s so level-headed and earnest most of the time.  We hear only a little about how he entertains the king and court, more about his personal relations with the king and family, and about Will’s own personal issues as well.  I think I preferred this varied look.  We still get plenty of historical figures, but I became attached to Will in a way that may not have been possible if he was a more ridiculous character.  I liked him very much and wanted him to do well.  I preferred that the story was centered on him.

Overall, I think this is a nice work of historical fiction that definitely deserves the re-release Sourcebooks is giving it.  I enjoyed the time I spent reading it and would certainly recommend it to someone else who liked the genre.

Buy King’s Fool on Amazon.

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