It is winter, 1553. Pursued by the Inquisition, Hannah Green, a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl, is forced to flee Spain with her father. But Hannah is no ordinary refugee. Her gift of “Sight,” the ability to foresee the future, is priceless in the troubled times of the Tudor court. Hannah is adopted by the glamorous Robert Dudley, the charismatic son of King Edward’s protector, who brings her to court as a “holy fool” for Queen Mary and, ultimately, Queen Elizabeth. Hired as a fool but working as a spy; promised in wedlock but in love with her master; endangered by the laws against heresy, treason, and witchcraft, Hannah must choose between the safe life of a commoner and the dangerous intrigues of the royal family that are inextricably bound up in her own yearnings and desires.
I am of mixed feelings about The Queen’s Fool. I found the characters to be inconsistent and weak, but even as I say that, I feel as though I am being unfair to the author – I am not learned on Tudor England, and perhaps the view she offers is realistic. Nonetheless, I found all the main characters a bit pathetic, which led to a lot of skimming and page turning. The book, much like a plot in an English court, requires patience and waiting for things to move along, as they do at their own very slow pace.
The fictionalized content in this book is greater than the other two I have read (The Constant Princess and The Boleyn Inheritance) since the protagonist herself is a work of fiction. Hannah, being a “seer,” leads this particular book on the edge of a fantasy, being as often her episodes are what drives the entire plot forward. Gregory repeats herself often, then changes her mind, then repeats herself again – I’m not sure if all the characters are disloyal and ambivalent, or if it was the author herself who could not make up her mind.
That said, it wasn’t a terrible read. It served for entertainment, and despite my dislike of the character and the speed of the storyline, Gregory does have a way of drawing her reader right into the world of Tudor England and enchanting us with the scenery and bringing to life the way things were. For that, she gets three stars.