The Queen's Fool by Ally Sherrick: Review

Cover illustration by Georgie McAusland

When Cat Sparrow’s sister is abducted from the convent where they grew up, she resolves to find her and to bring her home to the sweet-smelling gardens and (mostly) kindly nuns who care for them. Setting boldly out into a world of which she has little experience, Cat meets danger, adventure, and intrigue at every turn.

Fortunately, she also meets Jacques, a member of a travelling theatre troop who takes her under his protective wing and helps her to find a path that might lead back to her sister. But Jacques is not all that he seems and, with so much to hide, his secrets gradually become entangled with Cat’s quest ,and their fates are brought together on a gripping journey to solve a mystery and avenge a murder.

Written by Historical Association’s 2017 Young Quills winner, Ally Sherrick, The Queen’s Fool is a feast of a historical novel that evokes all the spectacle and ceremony of the Tudor Court while capturing the everyday life beneath its surface. Gripping from its opening chapter and filled with adventure this book contains surprises, political scheming, and the dazzle of the Tudor period.

The story is set in 1520, during the earlier part of King Henry VIII’s reign, when he was married to Catherine of Aragon and preparing to travel to France to meet with King Francis I for the summit known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The event was famously immortalised in a painting which is now held in the Royal Collection but Sherrick creates her own version of it as Cat and Jacques are surrounded by flapping tents, bustling courtiers, and thunderous tournaments.

Like all good writers, Sherrick crafts Cat and Jacques’ individual voices and characterisations extremely clearly as they take turns narrating the story. They are both wonderfully relatable and it is impossible not to care for them and their adventures. As a reader I felt extremely protective of Cat but, much like Jacques, I quickly found that the things that made her different were the things that emboldened her to stand up for herself and to face her adventures head on.

Each scene is full of details that convey the period but do not pull focus away from the engaging and thrilling story. The book is also filled with larger-than-life characters whose sinister motives force Cat and Jacques from one danger to another.

The Queen’s Fool is a book filled with history but it doesn’t feel like a history lesson. All of the information about the Tudor period is part of the story and cleverly drives so much of the narrative. It is a great adventure with wonderful characters that will leave readers on the edge of their seats at the same time as wanting to learn more about the period.

The Queen's Fool is out now and available from all good bookstores. You can buy it online at bookshop.org.

Thank you to Chicken House Books for sending a review copy.

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