Book name: The Tower of Fools
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Format: ebook, print, audiobook
Genre: Historical fantasy
Publication Date: 2020
The author of the incredibly popular 'The Witcher' book series is back with a new hero, Reinmar of Bielawa. That series was adapted into a computer game and then a Netflix series starring British actor Henry Cavill.
The Tower of Fools was written in Andrzej Sapkowski’s native Polish and originally published in 2002. The English translation has quite a literary quality to it. However, the story is one of pure action suspense.
The Tower of Fools is in some ways an easy work to categorise: it is a historical novel with enough fantastical elements to be counted as historical fantasy. However, it has quite a wry tone to it and there is plenty of comedy.
One way or another, I felt it was a mash-up, which I always like. It is set in 1425, at the time of the Inquisition and the Hussite Wars.
Reinmar is known as Reynevan. He has been to university and is an inexperienced but apparently quite talented magician with medical training as well. At the time the book is set, the two were seen as interchangeable.
Reynevan's story begins when he is discovered having an affair with another man’s wife. Adele’s husband is away on a pilgrimage, but her brothers-in-law take umbrage to an extent quite unlike anything I’ve seen in fantasy fiction, and they instigate a full-on family feud. Reynevan flees to seek sanctuary with his kinsmen and the nobility to whom he has pledged his loyalty.
Just about everyone in this very structured society gets drawn into taking sides in the conflict between Reynevan and the Stercza brothers. Both the church and the aristocracy become involved. In addition, almost everyone Reynevan encounters on the way pays some sort of price for helping him.
The Stercza brothers are extraordinarily tenacious in their pursuit of him, for reasons that female chastity and control by male relations can only partly account for. Reading The Tower of Fools I was constantly aware of the power of church and nobility in Polish society of the fifteenth century. This is as much their story as anyone else’s.
Reynevan is determined to ignore every order he receives from a string of protectors and remain in Poland rather than fleeing to Hungary. He is set on sneaking over to where Adele has escaped from the convent in which she was being held pending the determination of her fate.
Eventually, Reynevan finds himself in the tower of fools, an asylum, as a punishment for transgressing the social mores of the time.
I loved The Tower of Fools. It was incredibly well written, there was plenty of pace to the action and Reynevan was an entirely likeable character.
When I saw that there was essentially one plot strand, I was concerned that the book would drag because it is very long.
However, the endless array of people he meets on his quest to be reunited with Adele provided plenty of variety. Humour is never far away, and this kept the narrative entertaining throughout.
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