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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Best first chapter so far this year goes to Fortune’s Folly

I love Fortune’s Folly by Deva Fagan. I also love blogging because I can simply state that. Reviewers have to be more distant 9780805087420 Best first chapter so far this year goes to Fortunes Follyand try to write objectively, so you, the reader, can make your own decision. As a blogger, I don’t mind if you disagree with me. I’m simply telling you that I love this tale. 

"Life would have been much easier if I believed in fairy tales." 

I read the first line (above) and it resonated with my practicality and recent disillusionments with romance. Then I read the first paragraph and had to stop to look at the book again because it was so good. Who is this Deva Fagan and is she going to sustain this opening through to the end of the novel?  

Ah, we go on to the second paragraph and I read, "I could not afford such hopes." Wow, this author is reading my mind…. When I reached the last sentence of the first chapter, I had to slip my bookmark into place, close the book and sigh with satisfaction. This, readers, is how a book should begin. It should draw you in, make you feel something for the characters, then set off for a grand adventure - all in the first chapter.

After reading the entire novel, I wanted to go into a classroom to read this to the students and conduct a character study. The potential in being able to use graphic organizers for this novel make me shiver with glee. I could graph the plot, the predictions & how they come true in their twisted way, the motivations of each character… oh, reader, the possibilities for this novel. 

I decided to read this chapter book "cold" without any publisher notices, other blogger reviews, etc. I simply slid it from my towering pile of Must-Reads and thought to myself  "Okay, let’s settle down with some mushy girly fantasy." HAH! Could this be a fantasy novel? There is no map of the kingdom in the front for readers. Isn’t there some law that if you are writing a current fantasy novel, you must include a map? Rule breaker! (but I like it)

What this book does have are masterfully woven characters who defy conventions. The good guys and gals are not perfect. The supporting characters are just hazy enough that you aren’t sure if their motivations are good or bad. The villains – ahhh – we have a satisfying number of evil-doers. I counted 8, but there may be more. Let me know who you consider the villain.

Fortunata  and her father – the former Master Shoemaker of Valenzia, set out to seek their living in a new environment after Fortunata tricks evil villain #1 Captain Niccolo (also known as the Bloody Captain) into buying and wearing one of her father’s hideous footwear creations. With their donkey Franca (who is promptly stolen), they encounter a wandering group of troubadours who utilize all of Fortunata’s intelligence, perceptiveness, and insightfulness to become a fortune-teller. 

One of the troubadours is Allessandra the All-Knowing, Mistress of Magic, Doyenne of Dreams (yes readers, I typed doyenne because Fortune’s Folly is also a vocabulary lover’s delight). She teaches Fortunata the tricks she needs to survive and to try to free herself and her father from the clutches of Ubaldo, Coso & Cristo (AKA villians #2-4). 

A satisfying segment of fairytales is the grand quest and the call for a hero(ine) to emerge from the commoners  and to come to the aide of the castle-dwellers – in this case Prince Leonato, his mother the Queen of Domo and Princess Donata. Tricked into providing an outlandish fortune for the prince, Fortunata is then forced to accompany Prince Leonato on his quest to save her father’s life and possibly earn their freedom. 

Fortune’s Folly is no wimpy silly feminine tale of wiles. Instead we have strong female characters who were trapped by society, yet manage to make their own fortune through their efforts. The practicality of each encounter makes this novel enchanting. 

I’ve noticed a dearth of fairy tales for middle schoolers which is a tragedy given the 350 students I had needing to study them this spring. Fortune’s Folly has redeemed my belief in folk tales and strong characters who make the impossible come true without any ridiculous magic or unbelievable supernatural happenings. Your skeptical students will rejoice at their vindication of individuals making their own luck. Your dreamers will embrace the allusions to other fairy tales like The Shoemaker’s Elves, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and the Arthurian tales. 

Still need convincing from other sources? There are excellent blogs and reviews out there. You can waste time going and checking all of them or you can simply open another tab and order your copy of Fortune’s Folly today.

On a different note: Did you read Jennifer Howard’s article "From ‘Once Upon a Time’ to ‘Happily Ever After’" in the Chronicle of Higher Education? An interesting take on the history of folk and fairytales. I am enjoying the arguing that is resulting from this debate on the origin and history of folk tales.