Book Review: King’s Fool: A Notorious King, His Six Wives, and the One Man Who Knew All Their Secrets, by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Typing the very long title of this blog post was good practice in shaking off the cobwebs that have grown across this blog over the past few months. I am nearing the end of my “read for review” pile, and I feel like I’m slowly crawling out of a necessary hibernation. Soon I will be reading books of purely my own choosing, and I am looking forward to that. I have to say, though, that having this book by Margaret Campbell Barnes to review really helped me remember why I love being able to receive ARCs from publishers – this book was FANTASTIC, and I could have easily missed it without the inside opportunity. So thank you to Danielle at Sourcebooks for bringing King’s Fool to me!

King’s Fool is written from the perspective of Wil Somers, an intelligent, earnest, amusing young man who finds himself one day drafted by King Henry VIII to be his Court Jester. Wil Somers is a real historical person, as are all of the characters in this book. Barnes does an amazing job, though, of bringing them out of our 2-dimensional studies of them as history and making them living, breathing, incredibly interesting people.

We follow Wil from his humble farm beginnings, to his chance as an assistant to a wealthy merchant, to his serendipitous meeting with Henry VIII. Throughout the retelling of his life story, Wil’s voice is so sincere and heartfelt. I truly came to feel for and admire this fine man. He also relates through Barnes’ fiction how it was to live within castle walls, and within the inner circle of Henry VIII. You feel Wil’s affection for the complex King and watch as personal and political affairs unfold in front of Wil’s concerned eyes.

As interesting as the King and castle were, though, I was so happy to get inside of Wil’s own heart and personal life as well. This is a novel about royalty, but it’s also a novel about love, and Wil’s love story is very touching.

Before reading King’s Fool, I certainly knew who Henry VIII was, and I could name at least a couple of his wives. But after reading Barnes’ novel, I’m fairly sure I’ll remember much more about the “who,” “what,” and “why” surrounding this truly enigmatic King of England. I think it’s no small feat that Barnes could succeed in telling a compelling story through Wil’s voice AND teach her readers something lasting about a country’s history.


  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (April 1, 2009)