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FOOLED

First Fifteen Review

By zephy669, author of Cruise Control

Jul 5, 2015: A FIRST FIFTEEN REVIEW Web Serial: FOOLED Written by: Nina Santucci

SNAPSHOT

Fooled is a historical fantasy serial story set in Italy in the year 1496. It’s about a Royal Fool named Marco, who has a rather chummy relationship with the Crown Prince of Valona, Prince Leonardo. Marco gets involved in the relationship between Prince Leonardo and his sister, Princess Lucia, who Marco harbours unrequited feelings for.

The first fifteen installments of Fooled introduces the conflict between the Prince, who is known for shucking off his duty as a ruler and would much rather party with his Royal Fool, and the Princess, who is more rationale and devoted to her duty as a leader of the kingdom. The story makes a turn at just about the end of the first fifteen installments when the Prince is captured by an evil sorcerer following a gala and Marco is off on a (mis)adventure to save the Prince and the kingdom.

FOR FANS WHO LIKE . . . 

Light-hearted fantasy novels, much like Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, and definitely for fans of Disney films such as Frozen or Shrek.

WHAT I ENJOYED

Stories are essentially about characters and their relationship with one another. Nina understands this when she introduces and invests a good amount of time building the three main characters: Marco, the Fool, Leonardo, the Prince, and Lucia, the Princess. She switches between each of these three characters and we quickly learn what their wants and desires are. Moreover, we learn the conflicts between the characters. For example, the dispute between the Prince and Princess on how the Prince doesn’t take his duties as ruler very seriously when he’s trying the best that he can; or with Marco’s affection toward Lucia, introducing the love interest, and then adding tension as Marco believes Lucia isn’t very fond of him. Getting introduced to these elements of conflict and relationships made it easy for me to like these characters and be invested in them so that I actually wanted to find out what happened next—will Prince Leo figure out how to be a good leader and will Marco get the girl?

I also liked the scene where Marco is introduced (which starts on Chapter Two, but which should really be Chapter One). What I enjoyed most about this scene is that it sets a lighthearted tone and makes a promise to the reader that this book is meant to be funny and humorous and playful.

The story is told from an omniscient narrator, which means the point-of-view tends to jump from character to character in a single scene and we learn what everyone is thinking and feeling. Though this type of perspective is rarely used, it doesn’t detract too much from the story and I felt that it actually fit what Nina was trying to accomplish. Fooled is heavily influenced by Disney films, which tend to have an omniscient narrator in the background as the film plays out, and you get a sense of that in Fooled. There were a number of scenes that were movielike, and it’s easy to imagine this story as the next Disney blockbuster. Along with the story itself, Nina paints the picture through her own amazing artwork, which, again, looks like it came straight out of a Disney storyboard. The artwork is great at painting the picture and reinforces the playful tone. What I’d really like to see is Nina join the Disney crew; I feel like she’d fit right in.

WHAT PUT ME OFF

If you’re going to read Fooled, then avoid the first chapter. The first chapter is an info-dump. There’s no characterization, no showing details, just bland exposition of a moment in the story’s history. You can actually skip the first chapter and not have missed anything of the main plot and it reads stylistically different from the rest of the chapters. There’s no doubt in my mind that the historical event is important to the story, but it wasn’t something I absolutely needed to know right then and now. It didn’t hook me into the story, even though the chapter is about a war. It would’ve been much better had Nina put in little tidbits here and there in the later chapters when and where we needed it.

While the omniscient narrator fit well with this story in most cases, there were a few hiccups. The hiccups arose mainly when it came to writing description on the setting of a scene. Whenever we are introduced to a new scene in a new setting, such as the Princess Lucia’s room, the reader gets a slab of description. This not only stalls the pacing, but isn’t really necessary and comes off more as telling than showing. Instead of Nina telling me what Lucia’s room looks like, I would’ve preferred having her show me. How does Lucia interact in her room during this particular scene? Set what you need to set for us to get a good picture in our brains and then slide more details in as the scene progresses. For example, during the description of Lucia’s room, there is a long description devoted to Lucia’s closet. Great, but why do I need to know any of that at this point in time in the story? How is it moving the story along? Then the scene follows when her stylist, Fabian, walks in carrying a new dress that Lucia finds suitable to wear. Almost plays like a deus ex machina and I thought to myself: what a missed opportunity. Wouldn’t it have been fun to have Fabian come in and have trouble finding a dress in the large closet, needing to dig deeper through the closet, and have some back and forth banter between Fabian and Lucia about the closet? That would’ve done three things: 1) described the closet through showing as opposed to telling; 2) introduced a mini-conflict with the closet and not making it so easy for Fabian to find a dress for Lucia; and 3) shows Lucia’s obsession and fondness for good clothing or maybe a slight flaw that she can’t let things go and throw some of her older dresses away, which can relate back to how she treats her brother in that she has a hard time relinquishing her role in ruling the kingdom and trusting the Prince to do rule.

There were two other things which put me off and needed work. One was that there were several scenes where one of the three main characters would be in his or her room and talking to himself or herself or thinking about what he or she needed to do next. I call these thinking scenes, and they are basically exposition hidden through threadbare showing. We’ll hear the thoughts of the character, and the character may actually even be walking around aimlessly, but it’s really just exposition. The main character is making a decision and we are seeing his thoughts play out in his mind, but nothing is actually happening, and the story isn’t in motion. Oftentimes this is unavoidable in writing a novel, but it should always be done as quickly as possible so you can move on to the next scene. It also breaks the movielike feel that I think the story is attempting. The best way to tackle this type of problem is to actually imagine how this would play out if it really was a movie. Disney usually does this through a song, and a lot of other movies will have scenes with mentor or sidekick characters where they are either trying something new or talking about it, but always with the goal of something happening and moving forward.

The last thing that put me off was that there were several instances where Nina names the emotion, whether it be anger or surprise or feelings of gladness or sadness, whatever. It’s easy when you’re using an omniscient narrator to fall into this trap because the omniscient narrator knows everything and sees everything so it’s easy to just say that so-so felt angry or was surprised. Naming emotions is a symptom of telling instead of showing. Show the emotion and trust that your reader will get it without you having to be explicit about it. Readers are a lot smarter than writers give them credit for. Showing the emotion makes for a more visual and enjoyable story.

ON THE WEBSITE

The website is hosted by Blogspot and the layout is easy to navigate. It’s full of visuals from Nina’s artwork and is therefore pleasant on the eyes. Each installment is a perfect length, not too long and not too short so it makes it easy for computer reading.

SHOULD YOU READ IT?

Overall Fooled has a funny premise and playful characters. There are some hiccups in the writing but nothing that can’t be dealt with or improved upon in later chapters. If you’re looking for something lighthearted on a rainy day (or any day, really) then Fooled is for you. I’d continue reading it.

(This review is part of the First Fifteen series. To learn more about the review series and how you can get your web serial or indie novel reviewed, please see the main website at: http://cruisecontrolserial.com/the-first-fifteen/)

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