Angela Boord has given us a beautifully written and captivating novel in Fortune’s Fool. This is the story of Kyrra d’Aliente, fallen scion of a powerful house. It’s the story of her fall and the story of her vengeance. More than this, however, it’s a story about family and love and discovering that how we see and understand the world when we’re young - how we’re certain the world works - isn’t always true. Perhaps more central still to the work is this question: is trust possible?
In her debut novel Boord gives us everything we could possibly want in a huge fantasy tome. We’re treated to deep characters with complex motivations and backstories. The story is told from Kyrra’s perspective in two timelines, a present timeline wherein Kyrra searches for Arsenault - her former beau and mentor - and for her own vengeance and a past timeline wherein we see the events that led Kyrra to where she is at the beginning of the novel. The pacing within and between these two timelines is excellent and keeps the pages turning. There’s also some wonderful worldbuilding that intrigues and keeps the reveals coming until the very end. The novel is set in a renaissance Italy inspired setting. What truly stands out, however, is just how deep Boord has gone in her worldbuilding. There are complex political alliances between houses. There are bonds of family and kinship that influence these. There are economic ties, goods and trade, and who controls trade routes that all play a part in the story. What is truly astounding is that Boord manages to communicate all the relevant information without infodumps and in a way that feels natural and not overwhelming. To top it off, we discover a pantheon of gods and a mythology that helps shape this world in a creative and interesting fashion. I loved every moment of it and could barely bring myself to set the book down.
Anyone who knows me also knows I’m a huge fan of magic in my fantasy novels, and the magic in Fortune’s Fool is raw and wild and wonderful. Sometimes magic in fantasy can feel almost sterile, too easily controlled. Boord has given us a magic that is nearly untamable, and yet one that can’t be truly resisted. To top everything off there are marvelous emotional beats that make you ache for the characters you’ve grown to love. I can’t say much more about these without spoilers. What I can say is that this is a character story at its heart and the amount of growth that Kyrra goes through, as well as the various side characters, is nothing short of masterful. One thing I loved about this is that Boord is careful to make sure that the action in the novel communicates emotion. The emotional beats don’t simply come before or after the action, but as part of it. They are integral to one another, and that’s so rare. There was a moment in the story when I had this visceral realization that there are some things worse than death and when a novel can hit me with that sort of emotion, it’s a special piece of storytelling.
There isn’t much to criticize in this novel. In the first twenty percent of the novel the pacing seemed a little slow, but the characters and setting were so gripping that I hardly noticed. There was a section toward the middle of the novel where I felt like the focus was so strongly on Kyrra and Arsenault that side characters weren’t being fleshed out as much as they might. Some may be intimidated by the length of the novel, it clocks in at well over 200,000 words. Those words are put to such wonderful use, however, that I can’t possibly consider their number a negative.
Boord has given us a rare novel that combines crisp, cadenced prose with wonderful, deep, complex characters and a twisting plot that keeps you guessing all set in a brilliantly realized fantasy world. It will appeal especially to fans of Robin Hobb, with prose every bit as evocative and characters every bit as authentic as that master storyteller. Fortune’s Fool should be on the top of your TBR pile. This is a rare piece of storytelling that is beautiful, compelling, and demands to be read. I can’t wait for the sequel and to see what gems Boord shares with us next.
Review by Calvin Park
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