Violetta and Feste are in London, the year is 1601 and William Shakespeare is enjoying success at the Globe Theatre. But Violetta is not there to admire his plays; she is in England to retrieve her country’s greatest treasure, stolen by the evil Malvolio, and she needs help.
In an adventure that stretches from the shores of Illyria to the Forest of Arden, romance and danger go hand in hand. In a quest that could mean life or death, can Violetta manage to recover the precious relic and save her country and herself?
Brilliant and original, The Fool’s Girl is a jewel of a book.
It’s 1601 and Violetta, the daughter of Duke Orsin and Lady Viola, is a refugee from Illyria. Her uncle, Count Sebastian, aided by the evil Malvolio (former steward to her aunt, Duchess Olivia) launched a coup and during the destruction of the city, Malvolio made off with a precious relic that’s vital to the country’s future. Violetta, aided by her faithful fool, Feste, follow Malvolio to London and enlist the help of the successful playwright, William Shakespeare to save the relic and in doing so, save both her country and herself.
Celia Rees’s YA novel is a clever reworking of Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT that re-imagines certain aspects of the play and then goes onto imagine what happens after the play finished. Although you get a lot out of the book if you’re already familiar with the play, the story is equally strong for you to enjoy it without knowing a thing about it – and hopefully those who don’t know the play will go to read it afterwards.
Violetta is a spirited character – determined, resourceful and uncowed in the face of Malvolio’s malign threats. Feste is equally strongly drawn – fiercely loyal to Violetta, mischievous, unpredictable and a teller of tales. Rees gives both of them (and a number of other characters) strong voices. Where Rees does particularly well though is with her depiction of Shakespeare himself – here a man of regrets for the loved ones he’s left in Stratford, not so much a genius as a man with a good eye (and ear) for a story and whose quick wits have him skirting the world of court and diplomacy. In contrast, Stephano (Violetta’s cousin and love interest) is a little two-dimensional, as is his faithful friend Guido.
There’s a wonderful sense of period, with the Globe Theatre recreated to great effect. There’s a distinct fantasy undertone to the story, one that remains all the more tantalising for the way in which it is kept under the surface.
If I’ve got a complaint it’s that I wish it could have been twice the length. The writing’s beautiful, the story is clever and intricate and it was a delight from beginning to end.
A clever, intricate historical novel with fantasy undertones that takes TWELFTH NIGHT as its starting point and imagines what happened afterwards. It’s an absorbing and intelligent read and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Cross-posted to bookish, fantasywithbite and yalitlovers.