Review - The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski

 Review - The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski

Reinmar of Bielawa, sometimes known as Reynevan, is a doctor, a magician and, according to some, a charlatan.

Discovered in bed with the wife of a high-born knight, he must flee his normal life. But his journeys will lead him into a part of Europe which will be overtaken by chaos. Religious tension between Hussite and Catholic countries is threatening to turn into war.

Pursued not only by the affronted Stercza brothers, bent on vengeance, but also by the Holy Inquisition, and with strange, mystical forces gathering in the shadows, Reynevan finds himself in the Narrenturm, the Tower of Fools. The Tower is an asylum for the mad, or for those who dare to think differently and challenge the prevailing order. The 'patients' of this institution form a gallery of colourful types including the young Copernicus, proclaiming the truth of his heliocentric solar system.

But can Reynevan escape the Tower, and avoid being drawn in to the conflict around him, without losing his own mind?



There is a really exciting, gripping story at the heart of The Tower of Fools, it's just hard work finding it.
The story has all the dramatic elements of a great tragedy, as Reynevan falls in love with someone he shouldn't have fallen in love with, another man's wife. Getting caught in the middle of a bit of rough and tumble leads to a much rougher and more serious tumble, a dashing escape through the streets, and one of his pursuers lying dead.
After that exciting start, it's a story about a pursuit across country, bounty hunters, mysterious allies and more than a little magic. 
The problem really is the setting, or more accurately it is the author's insistence at thrusting us so deep into the setting that it can be hard, at times, to see the narrative. 
There are pages and pages of discussion about the Hussite heresies, and the validity or otherwise of their complaints against the papal church. There are discussions of old wars and those that fought in them and the changing political landscapes across Europe. There were so many unfamiliar names and places being constantly thrown around that one would have to be a medieval scholar to follow it all, and much of it seems to have little impact on the core narrative as our hero and his pursuers don't feel passionately either way about the religious or political controversies. 

An excellent narrative, buried in a treatise on the Hussite wars, The Tower of Fools was tough going but ultimately rewarded perseverance

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The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski is available now. It is published by Orion Publishing Group. 
I was given a review copy via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

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