Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November Book Review

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@Barrie Summy

The day after a massive referendum vote here in Maine (more on that later), it's a relief to distract myself with book stuff. Thanks as always to Barrie Summy for organizing The Book Review the text says, a list of other bloggy reviews is behind the icon above.

Fortune’s Folly
By Deva Fagan
Henry Holt & Co., 2009

Cinderella takes charge of her own fate in this marvelous tale by Deva Fagan.

Fagan lives in Maine and is one of my fellow bloggers on The Enchanted Inkpot. Those facts didn’t stack the deck for me, though—regardless of how much I like Fagan as a person I didn’t expect to be so enthralled by her book. High fantasy has to work pretty hard to get my attention. I demand my touch of reality…or at least I think I do.

FORTUNE’S FOLLY opened my mind, the first function of any good book. Stated baldly—poor girl gets snookered into helping a prince find the princess he’ll marry, falls in love with him in the process—Fagan’s plot is nothing unusual. But the characters are so marvelous, and the twists and turns so inventive, that I found myself galloping through this book in one sitting.

The story is set in a fantasy version of Renaissance Italy. Fortunata is the daughter of a celebrated shoemaker who lost his skills upon the death of his wife and believes he was deserted by the fairies who enchanted his tools. Fortunata doesn’t believe a word of that—she’s a realist, and she’s the one who’s out there on the street trying to inveigle the public into buying the monstrosities her despairing father now creates.

Fortunata and her father take to the road, looking for better luck. When they’re shanghaied by a mean-spirited traveling carnie, Fortunata becomes unwilling apprentice to a fortune-teller. She and we get our first hint of this book’s central question when she notices that even a fake fortune can inspire a customer to take charge of his or her fate. If the fortune then comes true, is that magic or simply skill?

Fortunata explores this question in all its richness when she is maneuvered into delivering a prophecy that will help a prince find the princess he will marry. Off the top of her head, Fortunata weaves the complicated saga of a weapon, a witch, an imprisoned royal beauty, and the magic shoes that will identify her. She then is horrified to learn that she must lead the prince on his quest for those things, her father’s life hanging in the balance.

How she deals with the quest and her relationship with the prince, working out the politics of two kingdoms in the process, is a beautifully engineered and compelling tale.

In the end, do we and Fortunata find out whether magic is real?

Maybe. That’s all I’m saying.


kayerj said...

I believe in magic--I think I'd like this book. If you want to read my review of the Blue Star by Tony Earley it’s here.

Anonymous said...

Very cute!

Sarah Laurence said...

I’m not to big on fantasy either, but it’s good to hear about good books by other Maine authors.

On your posts below:

I am so sorry to hear that you got pneumonia and Rob was ill as well. There is so much illness going around.

I do something like that shrunken MS with 4 color highlighters (when my kids don't steal them!) only I don’t shrink the MS – interesting idea.

Ellen Booraem said...

Oh, I love fantasy... it's what I write! It's just that my favorite kind of fantasy usually has one foot in reality--the Harry Potter model, where there's an alternative world coexisting with ours.

I keep saying I don't like the "high fantasy" model (as in The Lord of the Rings), in which there's no reference to the real world at all. But Deva and others keep changing my mind for me so I may have to stop saying that!

Barrie said...

I think I have a child who might just love this book! ;)

Barrie said...

I think I have a child who might just love this book! ;)

Gabriele Goldstone said...

I too believe in magic and this book sounds fun (I love the title and the playful attitude.)