"Moral? I am no Aesop. Draw what morals you wish."
~pg 295 - An Antic Disposition - Alan Gordon
"Twelfth Night" by William Shakespeare
"Twelfth Night" is the story of Orsino, a nobleman in the kingdom if Illyria. Following a shipwreck Orsino employs Viola, who when abandoned by the shipwreck disguises herself as a man named Cesario. Soon Viola falls in love with Orsino, however Orsino is in love with Lady Olivia who has fallen for Viola, believing her to be a man. "Twelfth Night" is a classic Shakespearean comedy of mistaken identities.
Books by Alan Gordon
"Orsino is dead." The message send the jester Feste, disguised as a German merchant, back to the duchy where, years earlier, he had foiled the plans of Saladin's agent, Malvolio, and secured the duchy for Orsino and his bride, Viola. As agent of the Fool's Guild, Feste must uncover the cause of Orsino's death, be it accident, suicide, or murder. Has Malvolio returned to win the revenge he swore? Or has another, more sinister cabal plunged the duchy into political upheaval?
"A Jester Leaps In"
It takes a fool to know a fool--or find one. So it befalls the member-in-good-standing of the Fool's Guild, Theophilos, to travel the Adriatic coast in the company of a duchess dressed as a man and acting the fool's apprentice. Their mission is to find out why six good fools have vanished in Constantinople. Amidst the whispers of spies, and the calumny of traitors, the plotting of assassins, and the ribaldry of dwarves, Constantinople is the gleaming center of the world brimming with war. Like all the fools, Theophilos seeks to bring sanity to this world. But with his beautiful wife--disguised as his apprentice--by his side, he cannot guess how Byzantine the danger is, or why, in a city that is the apple of the Crusader's eye, fools are the first to die...
"A Death in the Venetian Quarter"
In 1203, the relative peace of the Byzantine Empire is imperiled when the ships of the Fourth Crusade show up outside the walls of Constantinople. Instead of traveling to the Holy Land to battle the infidels, the Crusade, having sailed out of Venice, has been subverted and is now besieging the city. The jester known as Feste, his wife, Viola, and their compatriots within the city are faced with catastrophe as the peace the Fools' Guild has worked so hard to maintain is about to be shattered.
With such a disaster looming, the death of one silk merchant in the Venetian Quarter of constantinople seems insignificant. But Philoxenites, the Imperial Treasurer and one of the most powerful schemers at court, has taken a special interest in the case and wants Feste to investigate the Venetian merchant's death. The merchant, of course, was not what he appeared to be, and if Constantinople is to have any hope of surviving the troops outside its gates, Feste must quickly uncover what forces were at work when the merchant lost his life.
"Widow of Jerusalem"
The year is A.D. 1204 and the Fools' Guild is on the run from an increasingly intolerant Church. Arriving too late at the Guildhall to join them, the jester couple Theophilos and Claudia and their newborn daughter, Portia, must now flee the Papal army, having first risked their lives to steal, of all things, a tavern sign. As they journey across the Alps, Theophilos recounts to his wife a story from the Third Crusade, of the most beautiful woman in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and her dwarf jester, Scarlet.
In 1191, as Richard the Lionhearted leads his forces in an attempt to recapture Jerusalem from the army of Saladin, Theophilos and Scarlet are quietly manipulating events to bring about an end to the bloodshed. Their mission leads them to Tyre, the only city in the Kingdom of Jerusalem to withstand Saladin. Governed by a rougue general, the city is aswarm with refugees, spies, and splintered factions vying for power and position, and even success may only prove fatal. The key chess piece amid the swirling intrigues remains Isabelle, the Queen of Jerusalem, desired by many but married against her will to a man decades her senior. But there are forces at work that will stop at nothing, and it is up to Scarlet to protect the interests of the Guild, the lives of the people, and the future of Isabelle.
"An Antic Disposition"
You only think you know this story.
In A.D. 1204, the Fools' Guild is on the run from an enraged Pope Innocent III and the Papal troops he's dispatched to destroy them. Now, hidden in their secret enclave deep within the Black Forest, the fools, troubadours, and novitiates, including the jester couple Theophilos and Claudia, come together for their evening gathering to hear Father Gerald, their ancient leader, tell one of the greatest stories from the history of the Guild.
It begins in Denmark, during a time of civil war when three men laid claim to the throne while a fourth watched and bided his time. Into the strategically crucial town of Slesvig, the Guild sends Terence of York, who is promptly dubbed Yorick by the Duke's young son, Amleth. What unfolds is a tale of treachery, tragedy, and bloodshed that is the true story behind one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies. But Father Gerald's history contains secrets never known to anyone outside the Guild, and as he recounts it, Theophilos feels a chill steal over his heart.
For not even Fater Gerald knows the ending of the story. But Theophilos does.
"The Lark's Lament"
In A.D. 1204, the Fools' Guild is under attack from the forces of Pope Innocent III. Theophilos and Claudia, jesters with the Guild, are sent to enlist the help of a former Guild member--the troubador Folquet, now a Cistercian abbot. But while they are at the abbey pleading their case, a gruesome murder takes place--a monk is killed in the librarium and a cryptic message is found written on the wall in his blood.
With everything on the line, Theophilos, his wife, and their apprentice go off in search of the meaning of the message, uncovering a long-ago series of events that will prove to be as deadly now as they were then.
"The Moneylender of Toulouse"
In A.D. 1204, Theophilos, jester and agent for the Fools' Guild, is sent to Toulouse with his jester wife, infant daughter, and young apprentice, with one simple mission: Get the current bishop to quietly retire so that the position can be filled with someone more sympathetic to the Guild's goals. Arriving just before Christmas, they quickly learn that the bishop is in some hot water with a man widely known as the local moneylender. A man who, a day after pressing the bishop particularly hard, is found floating facedown in a tanner's vat.
Now, with time running out for him to accomplish their mission and thus protect the Guild, Theophilos has but one option left: Find out what actually happened the night that t he Moneylender of Toulouse ended up so spectacularly dead.
"The Parisian Prodigal"
When a swashbuckling stranger shows up at Count Raimon VI's chateau in May 1205 claiming to be the count's hitherto unknown brother in Gordon's engaging eighth Fools' Guild mystery (after 2008's The Moneylender of Toulouse), Toulouse's ruler taps one of his court's best minds to investigate—Theophilos the fool. A jester by trade only, Theophilos will need every bit of his considerable wit to solve a conundrum that turns increasingly treacherous after a flame-haired beauty is found slain in her brothel boudoir, the count's putative sibling still asleep beside her. Theophilos will also need crucial assists from his partners in crime solving, including his bewitching wife, Claudia—a duke's daughter equally adept with riposte or rapier—and their scarily precocious 12-year-old apprentice, Helga. With characters as entertaining as these, the long-running appeal of Gordon's series proves no mystery at all.
"Unicorn's Blood" by Patricia Finney
England in the mid-1580s faced an array of international foes and was torn internally by religious strife. At its center was a slight woman of exceptional intellectual brilliance. Her stature approached that of a deity--Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen. But this icon was more than a reflection of the Queen's personal charisma, it was a political creation, designed to hold a fractious people together.
"Unicorn's Blood" is about a dangerous secret, the existence of a private diary kept by the Queen as a young princess. Should this stolen journal, embroidered with a unicorn that has a ruby for an eye, fall into the wrong hands, its intimate revelations would destroy the entire edifice of Tudor government.
"Queen's Own Fool" by Jane Yolen and Robert Harris
Now called La Jardiniére, a resourceful and clever jester to the queen's court, Nicola was a most unlikely person to end up "fool" and friend to Mary, Queen of Scots. But Nicola isn't an ordinary comedian tumbling and clowning before the court; her quick wit and sharp tongue are rare amongst the fawning nobles. As fate takes Mary from France to Scotland, and into confrontations with rebellious lords and devious advisors, Nicola remains deep in the queen's inner circle. But when the Scots start to turn on Queen Mary, Nicola struggles to find something--anything--that she, just a fool, can do to save her friend.
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