- Book Title: Fool School
- Author: James Comins
- Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing (May 22, 2015)
- Book Length: 253 pages
- Genre: Gay, Historical, Young Adult, Romance
- Reviewed by: Petra
- Posting Date: June 5, 2015
There was a time where being a ‘fool’ was more than just being ‘silly’. Fools were entertainers, from jesters to storytellers to musicians to jugglers. The highest rank one could obtain was King’s Fool. It was said that Kings only answer to God; the King’s Fool only answers to the King and to God.
French-born Thomas’s father is a fool, his grandfather was a fool, his great-grandfather was a King’s Fool; his red-and-gold suit trimmed in rare royal purple, the best instruments, the highest honour. It is 1046 and Tom is on his way to the Fool School in Bath, England. The journey is not without danger and obstacles come on to his path well before he even sets foot in England. It is while he is still on French soil that he meets Malcolm. Malcolm looks to become a fool himself and the two young men (at fourteen they would have been boys no more) and they travel to Bath together.
The story is laced with old-fashioned Christian beliefs, true to the age it is set, and it is obvious that James Comins, the author, has done some extensive research. The scenery is stunningly descriptive; I walked over cobbled streets, through marsh, over plains, through woods. I sat in a rowboat across the Channel, flogged a horse to keep it walking and I’ve slept in a prison cell with a sack of pebbles for a bed.
Not only the scenery and the time-set are worked out well; the characters, both the main and the supportive cast, are worked out well. From the priests in their cassocks to the washer women in their rags, no character has been left undone.
That is not to say that I have no qualms with this story, though. I have a few. But… none of them really detracted from the story and they never bothered me enough to become annoying. Some of the character’s motivations are lacking or non-existent. There is one character that I still don’t know what his importance was to the story; there appears to be one, though. Mr Comins has hinted at sexual abuse; I think I would have preferred it if he had done more than hint. And, then there are the scenes between Tom and Malcolm; I really wish that Mr Comins had worked those out a bit further.
However, the story finishes at a point that leaves me to wonder if there’s going to be a second instalment. If there is, please sign me up!
Although the story is not truly factual (for heaven’s sake, it is called fiction!), James Comins has added enough of the mind-set and the mannerisms of the time that it reads like a true historical novel. For young adults. With gay main characters. And for those three reasons, I absolutely enjoyed the story of Thomas, Malcolm and the many other characters. All I can say is, you have got to try this story. (Psst, you know how I don’t rate the stories I read? I just wanted to say that I would give this one 4.5 stars out of 5. Don’t tell Scott!)
The Book Description:
In the year of our Lord 1040, fourteen-year-old aspiring jester Tom is en route to Bath to begin his studies in the art of being a Fool, following in the footsteps of his father, and his father before him.
Along the way he meets Malcolm, a fire-haired boy with eyes green as forest glass. A Scotsman who’s escaped from the ravages of the usurper Macbeth, Malcolm elects to join Tom at school. Though the journey to Bath is hazardous, it pales in comparison to what they face at the austere and vicious Fool School, where all is not as it seems. A court jester must aim to be the lowest rung on the ladder of life, and the headmaster will not abide pride.
As they journey through life’s hardships together, Tom and Malcolm find they only have each other to depend upon.
I am standing on the deck of a ship. Men move around me. Salt mist is in my mouth, and there are ropes like a nest of foreign snakes circling my ankles. But it’s the boat’s rolling, the tipping over and straightening, the mama’s-baby rocking, that splits me open. It gives me the same discomfort as incense smoke in church. Worse. It gets in the way of my experiences. I wonder if all sailors begin their careers this sick.
I kneel at the edge and throw up. Am I my father? There’s no drink in me.
I’m immediately hungry, and that makes me sick again. I hate my body. It’s a cage for the soul. I should have been the son of a heretic Gnostic, meditating on a bird-flocked hill, pretending there’s no physical world around me.
Malcolm’s hand touches mine, and I follow him through the oak door in the house-shaped thing in back of the rocking ship, into the captain’s quarters. A pillar and pulleys connecting the steering wheel to the rudder lurch and creak through the middle of the room; the gaps in the ceiling are blocked by what looks like a manticore skin, black spots on a cured yellow hide. The captain is here–it’s the navigator easing us away from Cherbourg, I figure–and I point silently up at the spotted skin.
“Ah! I’m glad you noticed, lad.”
The captain is English and speaks French very poorly. He folds his charts and rises from his chair.
“The Ethiopes call it a leopard. Bagged it swimming off the coast. Dashed brave creature. Lucky to catch it. Gave us a dashed tussle.” He’s chatty, bewildering. A Saxon.
He rubs his whiskers. “Sometimes I like to think we claimed its pagan spirit and converted it before it visited the leopard afterlife. That the Holy Spirit prowls the boat in the shape of a big cat. Thought about renaming the ship after it, but it wouldn’t be right to rename the Immaculate, of course.” That must be the name of the boat. “If it’d been the Burgundian, I’d have done it!”
I decide I like the captain. He doesn’t understand the Holy Spirit, but he likes It, and that’s a good mark of a man.
The Video Book Trailer: