Book Review – In the Company of Fools by Tanya Bayard

Give woman a book and she will uncover a murder… or two.

Synopsis

A baby abandoned in the palace gardens leads scribe sleuth Christine de Pizan into a mystery involving murder, superstition and scandal in fourteenth-century France.

Paris, 1396. Scribe Christine de Pizan is shocked when the Duke of Orleans’ fools find a baby, wrapped in rags and covered in sores, abandoned in the palace gardens. Was there really a wicked plan to substitute the child for the queen’s own baby daughter and blame the Duchess of Orleans, Valentina Visconti? Who would commit such an evil act, and why?

Accused of being a sorceress, Valentina is the victim of much slander and has powerful enemies at the palace, where rumours of witchcraft and superstition run riot. Convinced of the duchess’s innocence, Christine is determined to uncover the truth, and soon makes a number of disturbing discoveries. Could the palace fools be the key to unlocking the mystery?

Review

I chose this book for the cover and description. When NetGalley approved me to read and review this novel I did not even think it was 3rd installment in adventures of Chistine de Pizan…

I’d love to read them all now.

However, I did not find it very difficult to catch up with narrative (missing out on the first 2 installments).

What I found especially interesting and intriguing were little snippets and quotes from Christine de Pizan at the beginning of the chapters.

First, I thought it was a nice trick by the author to create as pseudo-historical persona for her character and give her a voice beyond the novels. However, quick Google search crashed my supposition. Christine de Pizan did exist. She was an educated women, a poet, a publicist and many other wonderful and not-so-womanly (by her times) things.

Plus, author dropped in a few more historical personalities (kings an duchesss aside), making the novel that much more interesting and intriguing. Creating a fictional story on the basis of real personalities – is the real magic of writing, in my view.

I loved Christine. I absolutely loved her noisy and nosy family, especially her mother, understanding and accomodating Italian woman. Christine’s kids and adopted dogs, her naive and superstitious (even more so than her mum) maid… and the fools

What a bunch of smart, witty and resourceful people Duke’s fools are. I know court fools are not what they seem (since the time I read Dumas’) but this bunch are very interesting characters to follow. And yes, it is not such a bad place to find yourself – ‘in the company of fools’.

Is there a happy end? There is an open end. Christine is to have many more adventures, I hope. She does manage to uncover the plot, but… you would have to read to understand.

Also, this book contains many interesting tidbits on superstition, medieval medicine and gender relations. You’d be surprised how many of them survived till our days.

Five stars from me.

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