David Blixt,
Star-Cross'd #3: Fortune's Fool
(Sordelet, 2012)

David Blixt's Star-Cross'd series has always been bursting with secrets, additional flavor for the action-filled plots. Fortune's Fool, however, allows secrets the place of prominence. While plenty of incidents occur throughout this novel, the driving force behind this part of Blixt's story is mystery.

Pietro Alighieri, Dante's oldest son, finds his mission to the Avignon papacy opposed by a hidden foe. Antonia Alighieri and Cangrande both face unknown malefactors. Cesco encounters a mysterious assailant. In the midst of grappling with religion, politics and changing relationships, Blixt's characters must deal with their personal puzzles and endure their separate trials.

This book differs from its predecessors in many ways. The shift from action to mystery slows the pace -- considerably where Pietro is concerned. The overall isolation of the characters from each other for much of the story changes the personal dynamics not only for them, but for the readers. The prior two novels highlighted a couple main characters, while this one's focus is more spread out.

More significantly, this narrative brings a darker, rawer feel to the story. While sex, malice and the message that life is pain have always been a part of this story, Fortune's Fool throws those elements front and center. It feels like the middle of a story, where things get sticky and difficult to chew. The discovery that Fortune's Fool began as the middle of a longer sequel that had to be split up put this book in the frame I was comfortable with. Blixt fleshed out this novel enough to hold my attention and build my intrigue, but it lacked that special luster I expect from finishing a Blixt book. Knowing that there's another installation to come in this arc explains everything. The second part of any trilogy tends to offer more darkness and less gratification; if it holds up and builds the story then it works. Fortune's Fool certainly achieves that!

This work contains many compelling pieces. The verbal sparring remains brilliant, more side characters get a chance to shine, and we get a taste of new love. The writing style is still excellent, if heavier. The cast doesn't get to play off each other as much, but their individual journeys keep them whole and emotionally connected to their audience. In short, everything in this book works well. As the second of a three-part installation, it works very well. It would be even better if there had been something to chase that sticky, hard-to-chew, filling taste. When you bite into that candy, you want the filling to be there, working with that sweet outer shell of chocolate. Without that sliver of sweetness to encase it, the taste is missing an element of satisfaction. Like a good filling, I enjoyed this book very much, but ... now I want my chocolate shell.

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Whitney Mallenby

29 September 2012

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