By Chris Tomasini
Published December 2021
This book is the well-deserved winner of The Historical Fiction Company’s 2022 Historical Fantasy award, as well as a five-star “highly recommend” rating. I’ve not seen much buzz surrounding this charming tale and that’s unfortunate, because I found it a delight to read.
Set in the early 15th century in the fictional country of Gora, the tale is narrated by Samuel, King Pawel’s court jester, bringing this world to life in a tale reminiscent of Chaucer. Within the castle walls live Samuel, Tycho the storyteller, Agnes the cook, and Ahab, the astronomer. Although living a life many would envy, they are all prisoners of the King, unable to leave by an unspoken agreement that to flee Gora means forfeiting their lives. This arrangement is fine for all but Agnes, who only agreed to be in service for one year and wishes to return to her husband. Ultimately, in helping Agnes, each friend, but in particular Tycho, must decide if security is more important than love and freedom.
At its heart, this is an ode to love. Love between friends, carnal love, unrequited love, and lost love that spawns ghosts and creates prisoners. The characters are all remarkable; from sensitive Samuel who despairs of ever finding romantic love; to Tycho, the teenage bard prodigy who can spin tales out of stardust; to Agnes, who loves her charges but yearns for home; to the exiled Bishop, who finds himself in an atheist land and unwittingly becomes the catalyst for Agnes and Tycho’s escape.
This is such a beautifully crafted novel and not at all what I’d been expecting, which, to my chagrin, was along the lines of dragons and princesses locked in towers. Instead I found loyalty, lust, loss, and dreams. The kind of dreams that you’ll sacrifice your own happiness and risk death for.
I have to echo The Historical Company’s highly recommended rating on this one. It’s truly magical.
4.5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐+
Until next time, thank you for visiting.