The book relates the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, through the eyes of Nicola, a young French acrobat. She is hired (though "adopted" would be a better term) and educated by the Queen, becoming her devoted servant through the death of two husbands and multiple betrayals and imprisonments.
Nicola is an engaging heroine- more endearing than some, though not as memorable as others. Her wit is what she will most likely be remembered for- she is, after all, the Queen's own fool. However her devotion is inspiring and her willingness to risk all for the Queen's safety.
The rest of the cast is portrayed with likewise vividness (though being older than the intended audience, I could not help wishing they were all given more screen time). The queen's four ladies-in-waiting all share the same first name: Mary. The author's cleverly allowed Nicola to nickname them "Regal Mary," "Pious Mary," "Pretty Mary," and "Jolly Mary." Need more be said?
We also meet the religious extremist John Knox, the intelligent but manipulative Ricco, the slimy Darnley and the "boar" Bothwell.
And then of course there is the sparkling, beautiful Queen who inspires love and admiration wherever she goes. It is hard to see how such an endearing woman could fall into such tragedy.
Perhaps it is because the Queen, after all, was the fool, and the Queen's Own Fool was the wise woman.
Yolen and Harris make a good writing team. I was less impressed, though satisfied by their other effort, Girl in a Cage and therefore surprised to find this one superior. Indeed, there were times when I found it difficult to put the book down- always a good sign.
However, though Girl in a Cage is suitable for pre-teens, more mature (though still tastfully handled) content makes Queen's Own Fool more appropriete for the 14+ crowd. Young and old will find it engaging- and full of enough historical facts for the older readers to feel justified in the indulgment.