Title: Courting Dragons
Author: Jeri Westerson
Published by: Severn House
Publication date: 3rd Jan 2023
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: A Kings Fool
1529, London. Jester Will Somers enjoys an enviable position at the court of Henry VIII. As the king’s entertainer, chief gossip-monger, spy and loyal adviser, he knows all of the king’s secrets – and almost everyone else’s within the walls of Greenwich Palace.
But when Will discovers the body of Spanish count Don Gonzalo while walking his trusted sidekick Nosewise in the courtyard gardens, and a blackmail note arrives soon after demanding information about the king, is one of his own closely guarded secrets about to be exposed? Trouble is afoot at the palace. Are the king’s enemies plotting a move against him? Will must draw on all his wit and ingenuity to get to the bottom of the treacherous and deadly goings-on at the court before further tragedy strikes . . .
I picked this up from NetGalley as I thought I wanted to get back into reviewing things other than Orc Smut, but I’ve hit a reading slump again, so…
Courting Dragons is the first novel in the ‘A King’s Fool’ series. Following the adventures of Will Somers, Henry 8ths Jester. Being allowed to speak his mind on the escapades of others in court greatly aids in keeping his own secrets hidden, until Will Somers has relations with the wrong man; Don Gonzalo, who he finds dead not long after.
I had a great time reading this book as it blends genres that I thoroughly enjoy; Historical Fiction and Murder/Mystery. A classic who-dun-it wrapped up in a Tudor English setting, right at the heart of the sovereign court. The characters are engaging and relateable, Will Somers is a flawed character in many ways which makes him entertaining and realistic. His vices are counter-productive to every-day living within his setting, but he has them all the same. His relationships with those around him are spectacularly written and captivating. But, it is his fears and reactions to the events unfolding around him, how they personally impact him, that drive the story onwards.
As the story unfolds and each of the clues are revealed, the reader is drawn further into the intricacies of royal court and the unique relationship that Will has with King Henry are endearing. His worries over his families and a rather pressing matter troubling Henry 8th offer a refreshing insight into what was at stake in the royal court – Henry 8th at this point is struggling to produce an heir with his current wife and seeking to find a way to annul his marriage; anyone with a basic understanding of English history knows the final outcome of these events, but the details within offer some clue as to how the people involved would have felt. This is also a part of the plot line, as tensions between England and Spain run rampant, only to be made worse by the discovery of a Spanish ambassadors body.
I felt for Will as he was thrust into the events unfolding around him and following his journey of discovery was intriguing. A Fool isn’t the sort of character you expect to be a detective, but in the setting and story-telling he makes perfect sense; able to go places, say things and witness events in a way that others couldn’t.
As the story reaches its conclusion all the threads are wrapped up nicely and make viable sense. Always a good thing in a murder/mystery novel. I truly adored my time with this book, the plot and the characters within. I felt a sense of dread when Will Somers put himself in dangers way and I was worried at times that his secrets would be uncovered. I felt my heart in my mouth when the fate of his lover was uncertain.
I wish to express a little bit of love for the wonderful character Nosewise, Will Somers trusty side-kick. He is a fantastic little dog that really lifts the characters he surrounds, making them feel much more complete. Also, the level of believability written into Somers job, the addition of his fools-tools, make him feel completely realistic and is a credit to Jeri Westerson’s research before writing. The authors note at the end of the book was fantastic, it was brilliant to read that Will Somers was a real person. I am captivated and eagerly await more in the new series and to know what Will, will get up to next!
A captivating plot with wonderful characters. Levels of intrigue laced with personal dramas made for a captivating read. Highly recommended if you’re into historical fiction during the Tudor times and/or Murder Mystery plots.