Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review: Fortune's Fool

Following my review of The Horse is Never Wrong, I was given the chance to read the second book of the series, Fortune's Fool, written by Mary Pagones. While there are many of the same characters in both novels, each centres on a different protagonist and Fortune's Fool can easily be read on its own.

This book focuses on Simon, a talented but largely self-taught and undisciplined rider. After successfully competing on the New Jersey hunter/jumper circuit, Simon looks to challenge himself by switching to eventing. He is able to secure himself a working student position with a prominent eventing trainer based in Vermont, and just before leaving he can't help but "accidentally" purchase a talented but poorly-trained gelding named Fortune's Fool.

The novel follows a year in the life of a working student as Simon and Fortune head to Vermont, a far cry from the busy equestrian and social scene of New Jersey. Not only do both Simon and his new mount need to learn discipline, but Simon must also learn to endure his fellow working students while maintaining a romantic relationship that could be frowned upon were it to be discovered. A variety of themes are touched upon, from homosexuality, to acceptable career choices, to eating disorders, to familial pressure.

Pagones strikes a good balance in providing an idea of what a day in the life of a working student might be without getting bogged down in daily details. There is no question that the work is hard but each working student has their own reason to be there, though their work ethics do vary. Life as a working student is not romanticized and Pagones makes it clear that aspiring to be a professional rider or trainer is not an easy career choice.

Contrary to The Horse is Never Wrong, which told the story of a beginner rider, Fortune's Fool focuses on more experienced horses and riders competing at higher levels, which provides more interest for readers who are already in the horse world, either as jumpers or as eventers.

The common complaint of horsey novels containing a fairytale-like story of a horse and rider emerging from nothing to become world beaters thankfully doesn't apply here. Simon and Fortune each have much to learn but Pagones keeps their progression to a reasonable level.

This novel uses a first person style similar to that used in The Horse is Never Wrong, but it flows better and the conversation feels more natural. Pagones keeps the plot moving forward at all times, allowing the reader to wonder what's to come.

Factually the book seems very accurate, though coming from the jumper world I cannot vouch 100% for the more eventing-themed portions.

Overall, Fortune's Fool is an interesting read for the horsey set, regardless of discipline. It feels more grown-up than The Horse is Never Wrong while still appealing to a broad age range. Pagones is an author to look out for in the future for interesting human stories set in a realistic equestrian setting.

Fortune's Fool, written by Mary Pagones, is available in both Kindle and paperback editions through, where you can also find a preview of the first chapters.

Disclosure: I have received no financial compensation for writing this review aside from a sample or copy of the product to be reviewed. My reviews are always my honest opinion and experience. Readers who use reviewed products do so at their own risk.