Looking for a fun romp through the Middle Ages? Then this book is for you. Looking for verisimilitude? You might want to pass. The Jester is an adventure novel with a historical background. It’s a rollicking read, complete with evil villains, humble heroes, beautiful maidens and a mystery to solve.
Successful thriller writers Patterson and Gross certainly know how to plot and set a good pace. Yet, for all the adventure, mystery and suspense, I never really felt that I was in the Middle Ages. It wasn’t so much that the authors didn’t describe the scenery and elements of everyday life. It was that much of the dialogue was anachronistic, and as the story progressed, it became harder and harder to suspend my disbelief.
The characters, while not exactly true to the period, were certainly flesh and blood and well-motivated. The Jester of the title is a sympathetic hero. He returns from Crusade to discover his wife has been kidnapped and his son (conceived just before he left for the Holy Land) murdered by nobles. He sets off to rescue her and takes on the jester disguise to gain access to the castle in which he suspects she is being held.
Readers who have weak stomachs should note that Patterson and Gross do not stint on gore when describing the various fights and battles. In that, at least, they are historically accurate. Although this book is missing the depth necessary for a truly satisfying historical read, it is nevertheless a fine piece of escapist fiction.