Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Fool's Girl

Title: The Fool's Girl
Author: Celia Rees
Reading Level: Young Adult
Location: YA Rees (not released yet)

Violetta is the exiled daughter of the former Duke of Illyria. During the violent overthrow of the country that is rightfully hers, she lost everything of value including her family, the man she loves, Stephano, and a holy relic that brought good fortune upon her small country. With the help of her faithful clown, Feste, she tracked the stolen relic to Elizabethan England and the villain Malvolio who holds an ancient grudge against her family and Feste. To win back the relic and regain the throne of Illyria, Violetta and Feste concoct a dangerous plan and bargain for assistance from playwright William Shakespeare, in exchange for the right to tell their extraordinary story. Will Violetta and Feste succeed in their quest? Read the book to find out!

Based loosely on the characters in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, The Fool’s Girl has an entertaining storyline that unfortunately, starts to really drag in the middle of the book. I wanted to love this book because I am a huge fan of Shakespeare, but the character development and the plot did not live up to the suspense and romance that the interesting concept promised. Unfortunately, the action in the book stalls after Violetta narrates her background story to Will Shakespeare. Violetta’s background is richly detailed and entirely gripping. However, after that point, Rees creates the majority of the remaining suspense in the storyline by having Violetta get repeatedly abducted and rescued at random points throughout the rest of the book.

Since the novel lacks in the action department, I expected some serious character development while the rest of the story played out. However, Rees only comes on the verge of truly fleshing out her characters, particularly Violetta. The book is narrated by a few different characters including Feste, Will Shakespeare, and Violetta. I felt that the book, and the character of Violetta herself would have been much better had Violetta had more of a narrative voice. Even though she had all the makings of a memorable heroine, strong and passionate, I never truly connected to her. This made the romance between Violetta and Stephano seem stale and contrived. The scenes with the two of them lacked any spark or passion. Once the suspense let up in the middle, Violetta’s seemingly hollow actions, and her half-hearted romance with Stephano made the rest of the story a chore to finish.

I will say that it is obvious Rees spent a lot of time researching Elizabethan England. She expertly details the city of London, its cultural and political atmosphere as well as a few of the historical figures of the time period. She also thoroughly describes the fictional city of Illyria to such an extent that the reader can easily immerse themselves in this picturesque country by the sea.

The Bottom Line: I was definitely not a big fan of this book. It has its strong points, but I never really connected to the characters and the story fell flat for me in the middle. If you enjoyed Celia Rees’ previous books, you may really like The Fool’s Girl, so I would suggest giving it a chance. If you like Shakespeare, definitely give it a try, but I would suggest checking it out from the library.

The publisher of this book sent me an advance readers copy for this review. The Fool's Girl will be released in the U.S. on July 20, 2010.

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