Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Queen's Fool

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.

The above synopsis does a great job at breaking down this book into one paragraph.  However, to truly get a feeling for characters, you must delve much deaper.

Hannah was "begged for a fool" when she was but a lad... yes, you read that right.  No, she didn't have some kind of barbaric, medieval, sex change operation.  Her and her Jewish father were on the run from the Spanish Inquisition when they arrived in England.  Hannah and her father knew it would be best and travel would be safer if everyone thought she was a boy.  So she continued that charade, first in her father's printing shop as his young helper, then as the fool for the young dying king.  When the king was still alive, Robert Dudley sent young Hannah to be the Princess Mary's holy fool, as she had the gift of Sight {they believed the angels spoke to her and revealed the future}.

Having the gift of Sight, Hannah walks a fine line throughout this story.  With the future so unclear, especially to those in line for the throne, having a holy fool who can see the future is almost a necessity.  However, being the holy fool who is innocently {and sometimes blindly} honest can be a frightening thing.  Hannah watched her mother burn for heresy in Spain, just for being Jewish.  Then she goes to England, and young Jewish girl, who can see the future, good or bad.  She predicts sickly King Edward's death, down to the day, along with Jane's forced rise to the throne.  She predicts Mary's being queen, her two "pregnancies" that end with no child at all, as well as the heartbreak she will have if she marries {King Philip leaves her for her sister}.  Much of what she sees she could be tried {and condemned} for treason against the royal family.

All the while young Hannah is at court, her thoughts are taken captive by Lord Robert Dudley, whom she loves, but does not know why.  At the same time, she is betrothed to a young Jewish man.  Amisdt the treachery, pardons, executions, plotting and all else that is court life, Hannah discovers what she loves most about court is not the court at all, but the people.  Her allegiance to the Queen holds her there for years, but her heart is won out by her betrothed in the end.

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