My rating: I’d go there again! (4/5)
Last week I reviewed The Gypsy King, and LOVED it! It was a great YA fantasy adventure, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on book two, A Fool’s Errand. It was fantastic to be able to dive right in to book two, especially considering the big reveal at the end of book one, so readers be warned, there are spoilers ahead for book one.
A Fool’s Errand picks up right after the events of The Gypsy King. Persephone and Azriel are fleeing from the villainous Regent, Mordecai, when everyone learns that Persephone is the lost twin sister of the king, and she’s also the true heir to the thrown. Mordecai is none too happy that Persephone was not taken care of the night she was born (ie. murdered), and has no intention of letting her disrupt his own plans to overthrown her brother and claim the crown for himself. The mustache twirling continues…
Before Mordecai can murder Persephone, Azriel does some quick thinking and tells Mordecai that he knows how to find the Pool of Genezing, a treasure that Mordecai covets even more than the thrown. While this saves both their lives, it’s complicated by the fact that no one actually knows where the healing pool is and Persephone and Azriel are only give one hundred days to find it, or the true king will be killed.
Persephone and Azriel immediately depart for parts unknown, but of course, a quest is never that straight forward, and theirs is complicated by an impromptu marriage, bloodthirsty villains, and uncooperative weather. It soon becomes clear that finding the healing pool just might be next to impossible, if it exists at all, and the hundred days are quickly disappearing. A Fool’s Errand continues with the elements that I loved so much in book one. Persephone is a great heroine, she’s prickly and not exactly happy about the events that happen on her quest. But, unlike in book one, Persephone starts to change. She’s no longer quite as distrustful of others as she was in the first book. She’s still not comfortable relying on others, but she does start to put the needs of others before her own. I loved seeing this progression with this character and I think her conflicting wants made her a well-developed and interesting character.
What I also found interesting about A Fool’s Errand is the juxtaposition of a more childish tale (ie. the quest element) and the more adult themes. The central idea of the quest for a mythical healing pool didn’t scream adult fantasy to me, and actually makes me think more of the middle grade fantasy books that I’ve read. I liked the quest element and I think it’s a lot of fun in many books, and I do think it worked in A Fool’s Errand. But what I was surprised at was how this less mature plot device co-existed beside some very mature themes. In particular, I’m thinking of Mordecai’s lecherous ways and recurrent threat of rape of the young women in the story. I’m not convinced that these two elements meshed well together, and this somewhat awkward pairing makes this a four star and not a five star read.
I also found that the use of multiple perspectives slowed down the pacing of A Fool’s Errand. With the first book, I flew through the pages. In book two, the increased emphasis on Mordecai and his general’s perspective really slowed down the book. They’re both so dastardly, it was hard to want to read those chapters. I am hoping that the focus will be back to primarily Persephone in the final book.
The last thing that I’ll mention is the romance element in A Fool’s Errand. I will admit that I liked it, and I think it will appeal to a lot of romance fans; however, that means this title will not go over well with non-romance fans. I don’t think this trilogy is a good choice for a wide audience, but will please a certain type of reader, one that I am. Persephone and Azriel have a rocky road ahead of them in book two. At the end of book one, Persephone has lied and betrayed Azriel, and he’s certainly not happy with Persephone. I liked the fact that Persephone struggles with a relationship and I think her struggle is realistic. She was a slave, and she doesn’t have much experience in trusting others. Luckily her handsome chicken thief seems to understand that about Persephone and is patient with her. That said, I personally think this romance would be stronger with the inclusion of Azriel’s point of view (we have the villain’s p.o.v. bogging it down after all!) since readers have to rely on Persephone’s interpretation of Azriel’s intentions. It would have been nice to have been inside Azriel’s head and see his thought process in dealing with Persephone.
Ultimately, I thought A Fool’s Errand was a solid follow-up to The Gypsy King. I think it will please fans of the first one, and the cliffhanger ending will leave readers clamoring for the last book, Tomorrow’s Kingdom (good thing I have it sitting on my bedside table).
For another quest novel, I think fans of this trilogy will also enjoy Kelley Armstrong’s Sea of Shadows. Not only is there a quest, but the sisters involved also have to deal with difficult (albeit handsome) companions. It is also first in a trilogy.
For a more traditional quest, give Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain a try. It doesn’t have much of a romance, but it’s a lot of fun! And, there’s a magical pig, so clearly it’s going to be amazing. Start with the first, The Book of Three.
My last suggestion is not an obvious one. For the Darkness Shows the Stars is not a quest filled book, but for fans of the romance in A Fool’s Errand, I think this will appeal. Like Persephone, the heroine here, Elliot, has pushed away the hero, and it’s now up to her to figure out how to mend fences. And it just happens to be a retelling of my all time favourite Austen book, Persuasion.