Author: Nancy J. Attwell
The following review was contributed by: NORM GOLDMAN: Editor of Bookpleasures. CLICK TO VIEW Norm Goldman's Reviews
To read Norm's Interview With Nancy Attwell CLICK HERE
The Fool’s Path: A Tale From The Lothemian Legacy is an ambitious debut novel in the first of a trilogy from Canadian born Nancy J. Attwell, who shows a wonderful amount of promise as an up-and-coming novelist of historical fiction.
When I interviewed Attwell she stated that some of the inspiration of her novel came to her while she spent a year living in the Groot Begijnhof of Leuven, in Belgium, a secular nunnery built in the 13th century. As she further pointed out, that although modernized, this walled compound retains many of its original features including cobblestone streets, winding stairwells, and a Cinderella-like hearth as the centerpiece of our home. This experience granted her great insight into what it was like to live in a medieval community.
From the very first chapter there is an intense forward momentum as we are introduced to our principal characters, Sebastian, son of Frederick Duke of Westfield, and his close and faithful friend, Raynar- both of whom could have easily been knights of King Arthur's Round Table.
Sebastian has been tricked into returning home by his father, the Duke of Westfield, in order that he capture and imprison the latter’s arch enemy, Branold of Gildren. Apparently, Sebastian's father never forgave Branold, who twenty years previously abducted and married the Duke of Westfield's future bride, Judith, as she was on her way to solemnize her marriage with the Duke.
Unfortunately, as Sebastian discovers later on his life, he was not much different from his father, as he states: “My father spent his life trying to avenge all wrongs. He was never content to the past be forgotten, Have I been so different? I have not sought revenge, but atonement. And the result has been that I have spent my life either chasing the past or being stalked by it.”
Adding a little spice and intrigue to the story is Sebastian's falling in love with Katrina, the eldest daughter of Branold, whom he secretly marries and impregnates. However, unfortunately, Katrina in desperation and despondent disappears into the forest to await the birth of her child, subsequently, feigning her death and eventually winds up fleeing across the kingdom of Westfield.
Sebastian, unaware of what has transpired and believing Katrina is still alive, enters into an agreement whereby Branold will be set free in exchange for permitting his eldest daughter to marry Sebastian. However, when it is eventually pointed out that Katrina is dead and that the eldest daughter is now Eleanor, Sebastian is now obliged to marry someone whom he does not know and does not love.
This is a story that has all the ingredients of a Shakespearian tragedy with its elements of fidelity, valor, revenge, folly, treason, ambition, deceit, love, and ambition. Attwell's careful attention to her characters’ voices with its clever and realistic dialogue seamlessly incorporated into the narrative brilliantly captures the life and times of the middle ages. In addition, her wide-ranging knowledge of the middle ages realistically and effectively portrays her characters. For example and as a reflection of the attitudes of the times, Eleanor was not very much scandalized that Sebastian had several illegitimate children. What concerned her was the fact that they would not be provided for by her husband, and as a result she accepted these children into her household.
It is this realistic tone that nicely fits in with the many surprises of the story, that only reaffirms the wide- held belief that history much of the time is half fiction, its spirit very often beyond our grasp.