________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 12. . . .November 22, 2013


A Fool’s Errand.

Maureen Fergus.
Toronto, ON: Razorbill/Penguin Canada, 2013.
512 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-0-670-06765-7.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4



At Azriel’s words, Persephone felt the blood drain from her face. There were easy ways to die and hard ways to die, and mocking the Regent for his terrible deformities must certainly guarantee the very hardest death of all.

“Aziel,” she breathed, giving her head the tiniest of shakes.

“But he is a cripple, Princess,” insisted Azriel with a deliberately provocative roll of his own powerful shoulders. “Even if he had other than base blood running through his veins – which he does not – how could he ever be king? Look at him – he can hardly hold up his own head!”

At this, the gore-splattered Regent lifted both his head and Persephone’s bloody knife as high as he was able. Slowly, he began lurching toward the kneeling Gypsy and the smash-nosed soldier who yet held him by the hair. Inwardly cursing Azriel for a reckless fool, Persephone hissed his name again but he took no notice.

Instead, careless of the scalping knife that was now pressed against his throat, he absently ran his hand from the broad ridge of his chest to the hard flatness of his stomach – and kept talking.

“His Grace hasn’t the strength and vitality to set him above other men,” he explained as he gazed placidly up into the livid face of the madman who was advancing upon him. “He could never wield a sword in defence of the kingdom or ride a great hunter or even dance at his own banquet. And he most certainly could never get an heir upon a suitable wife, for there is not a noblewoman in the realm who would willingly lie with him looking the way he does now. It matters not that his face is handsome and that he is powerful and rich. When even the lowest lowborn slattern in the kingdom looks at him, I promise you that all she can see are his narrow, crooked back, his skinny, twisted legs, his limp, useless – ”

“Silence!” screamed the Regent. Savagely wiping spittle off his chin with the back of his shaking hand, he panted audibly and stared down at Azriel as though trying to decide which piece of him to slice off first.

Seeming bizarrely gratified by Mordecai’s reaction - and looking so fearless that Persephone decided he was not reckless but utterly insane – Azriel leaned forward and whispered, “Let us go and I can change all that. Your Grace. Let us go and I can change everything.”

With an animal noise somewhere between a howl and a snarl, Mordecai slashed with the dagger.

Azriel jerked his head to the side so quickly that the point of the dagger missed him entirely and instead sliced open the cheek of the soldier who held him. As it did so, Persephone lunged against the hold of her own captor. When he did not let go, she flung her head back as hard as she could and was savagely gratified to hear the sound of his nose breaking.

Unfortunately, Azriel did not use the moment of distraction to try to escape. Even more unfortunately, he resumed speaking.

“Your Grace, I can see to it that you are made well and whole,” he murmured in a voice so seductive that Persephone found herself responding to it in spite of the rather distracting moans of pain issuing from the freshly injured soldiers.


Maureen Fergus opens her young adult novel, A Fool’s Errand, with the above scene which directly connects to The Gypsy King, the first novel of the trilogy. Persephone and Azriel are trapped and seem to face certain death until Azriel makes the brilliant move of first insulting and then bargaining with the Regent Mordecai. Azriel convinces their captor that, if released, he and Persephone will find the mystical Pool of Genezing which is fabled for his healing waters. They will bring some water back to Mordecai and help him become whole once again. Of course, Persephone and Azriel have no intention of keeping their part of the bargain, and Mordecai not only sends spies to watch the two as they travel but also intends to kill them as soon as the pool is located. Readers are immediately drawn into the world of treachery and intrigue of the evil Mordecai and the valiant efforts of Persephone and Azriel to thwart him and keep the newly crowned King Finnius on his throne.

     Fergus maintains the same cast of characters whom readers met in the first novel of the trilogy. Persephone is independent and capable and is determined to help her twin brother maintain his rightful place as King of Glyndoria. Azriel is her quick-witted and brave counterpart and supports Persephone wholeheartedly. They are an adventurous and daring team who face danger without flinching, as well as a couple with a romantic bond which seems to grow steadily stronger and deeper.

     Secondary characters include the evil Regent, Mordecai, and his henchman, General Murdock. There is an ongoing secondary plot which concerns Mordecai’s continued efforts to undermine Finnius and, thereby, obtain the throne for himself. He masterminds a plot which concerns not only the king but also Lord Bartok and his daughter, Lady Aurelia. Mordecai is ruthless, and those who stand in his way are either tortured or, if they are lucky, killed. He allows Persephone and Azriel the freedom to search for the healing pool but under the condition that they return within 100 days or those closest to them will suffer. The heroes not only have a daunting quest in finding a pool which may be only a myth, they also are under the pressure of a severe time limit.

      Fergus leads her readers through many parts of the kingdom of Glyndoria, and her graphic descriptions make the fairy tale world come alive. Persephone and Azriel visit the mountains inhabited by the Khans and face not only the dislike of the local people but avalanches and deep mountain crevasses. Their quest then leads them to the Island of Ru after a hair-raising trip through the Great Forest. Stormy weather means they must stay on the island longer than expected, using up many of their precious days yet gaining more tidbits of information regarding the magic pool. Eventually, Persephone and Azriel return to the mainland and the Gorgish people who, apparently, have the vital map which will lead to the pool. Imagine Persephone’s anguish when they learn that the pool is within the Mines of Torodania, the one place Persephone fears above all others in the kingdom!

     At over 500 pages, A Fool’s Errand is a long novel, and yet it flows quickly. The personalities of Persephone and Azriel, their friends and their enemies, keep readers engaged and cheering the pair as they pursue their quest. A plot which takes the heroes to different territories, each with its own terrors, keeps readers on the edge of their seats as the action and adventure continue. There are moments of terror woven together with moments of light-hearted comedy. There is ongoing adventure woven together with tenderness and romance. In other words, this interesting and well-paced novel has something for everyone. The cover would suggest that the intended audience is young adult female readers, but undoubtedly males would enjoy the action as well. And certainly anyone who reads A Fool’s Errand will be impatient to know the denouement of the entire story which will be revealed in the trilogy’s final volume.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson is a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French who lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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