More is another comedic/satire writer that I enjoy, though he doesn’t write fantasy. (I would classify him as general fiction with some fantasy elements tossed in occasionally, though perhaps that’s a bit finicky.)
Fool is Moore’s take on Shakespeare. It’s a retelling of “King Lear” from, of course, the fool’s point of view. I will admit, I’m not a huge Shakespeare fan – I’ve seen 3 of his plays, and love watching them but have read only “Romeo and Juliet” and parts of “Julius Caesar.” (“Parts” because my English teacher decided we could skip all the boring battle scenes.) Anyways, that whole aside is to note that there are multiple Shakespeare references, puns, and jokes that I’m sure I completely missed, due to my unfamiliarity with the Bard’s works. Feel free to note any of your favorites in the comments!
Fool is told from Pocket’s, the jester of King Lear, point of view, first person. Moore’s work in third person often feels a bit disconnected or even impersonal to me; I greatly prefer his first person narratives.
I was rereading this via audiobook and it wasn’t until the second time around that I realized what a complex character Pocket is. He does have a bit of that “happy outside, sad inside” clown persona going on, though it’s subtly enough done that it doesn’t feel like a cliche. But he gets joy from his quick wit and job as a fool; he’s intelligent, observant, and rather lucky. He is kind in a time and place devoid of empathy; he’s aware of how the world works and is willing to work with the tools that he has
The story, of course, retains its tragic elements but nobody could accuse Moore of writing a tragedy. Rather, it’s riotous humor tempered by grievous and dire events. Oh, yes, riotous. This book is vulgar. Really, truly vulgar. It is full of, to quote the fools, “heinous fuckery.” If you’re not a fan of cursing, bawdy humor, coarse, crude, and licentious language and stories, give this one a pass. If you blush easily, you may not want to read this one in public. (And if you are listening to the audiobook in front of children, expect a number of awkward questions afterwards.)
I loved the female characters in this novel. Goneril and Regan, the two elder daughters of King Lear, drive the plot. They both enjoy sex, sans inhibitions, without becoming one-dimensional characters whose only defining characteristic is being sexy. They have several, er, predilections in that arena which are traits, not defining characteristics. They control their husbands, manipulate the king, and plot for taking over the kingdom. But they don’t do so through womanly wiles and feminine deceptions. Rather, they accomplish things through strength of will and intelligence. They’re practical and not prone to being controlled by their emotions; instead they use their emotions to further their causes. Well. Regan is vaguely sociopathic, so we’re assuming emotions on her part. Honestly, either of them could have easily been written as a man, even though throughout the book it is clear that they are women. (Which is awesome. Many female characters are so stereotyped that writing them as men would require a major change in personality.)
Cordelia, King Lear’s youngest daughter, is amazing. She doesn’t actually appear that much in the novel and probably has the fewest lines of any of the main characters, but even though her page time is limited, the reader gets a clear picture of a well-rounded, intelligent, powerful character who goes after what she wants. (Ah! I want to go on but not at the risk of spoiling the plot.)
The side characters are written sympathetically and nobody comes off as one-dimensional – eh, perhaps the witches do; I can forgive Moore for that. There are a few good jabs at those in power, monarchies in general, and the abuse of power; some of them are funny and some of them are not. This is definitely a book with darker humor in it.
If you like Shakespeare, satires, great female characters, or complex, dark comedies, you should try this one. If you’re a stickler for history (this isn’t accurate by any standards), if you don’t like lewd humor, if you’re not a fan of violence, or if you like your comedies to be light and fluffy, than, sadly, this may not be the book for you.