I quite enjoyed this!
It reminded me a bit of a more adult version of Jane Yolen’s ‘Queen’s Own Fool,’ which I read recently. It’s likely less historically accurate, but I found the characters to be wonderfully vivid (if not quite ‘believable.’) This is historical fiction for readers who want a well-crafted, entertaining story. It won’t hold up if you’re nitpicky about “did that really happen,” but it’s got internal consistency.
Set in 13th-century Burgundy, the story involves a naive knight from a small town – and his friend, a traveling minstrel who happens to have the king’s ear, and a privileged position at court. The minstrel, Jouglet, schemes to bring the knight, Willem of Dole, to the king’s attention, and even aims to convince the king to marry Willem’s sister. But what are Jouglet’s real motivations?
Galland does a nice job of contrasting the ideals of ‘courtly love’ with the not-so-idealistic behaviors of the people of the court, all while crafting an absorbing story with plenty of romance and mystery.
I picked this up because of the Neal Stephenson cover blurb. The writing bears zero resemblance to anything Neal Stephenson has ever published, but I’m not sorry I read it!