Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
The writing in “D'Aprile's Fools” is superb!
This novel by Michael DeAngelo, the creator of the Tellest literary universe, really benefits from having a very gifted and experienced writer behind it. That's no understatement. DeAngelo is able to craft words and weave them in such a way that they “grip” and “bite.”
There are three things that really stand out about this novel:
Frederic is far from a simplistic character. He accepts that there are consequences to his actions yet commits to those actions nonetheless. He comes across as very conscientious and thoughtful, possibly even an overthinker. He exhibits bouts of anxiety, guilt, and self-doubt. At times, he realizes that what he's asking others to do could be considered dishonest, dishonorable, or dangerous. He pursues the greater good knowing that pursuing it might mean stepping over some toes or even making some sacrifices, but all the while he never asks anyone to do anything he wouldn't do himself. In fact, much of the time, he is the one making the greatest sacrifices and taking the biggest risks. That's one of the things that gets us cheering for him.
And that leads into one of the other big pluses of this novel: the stakes. It feels like there's an actual sense of dread or danger. Something bad might actually happen. There might not be such a happy ending.
It's impossible not to feel for Frederic when he reveals who or what he's fighting for. He sounds hopeful yet unsure of his wife's fate. As a reader, you can really sense and feel that it's eating him inside every second that she goes unfound and unrescued. It reminded us of actual people who've gone missing like Gabby Petito, Elizabeth Smart, or Susan Powell. We thought about how their loved ones might've felt—the anxiety, the uncertainty, the fear, the guilt, the hopelessness. These are things that Frederic experiences, and we're right there with him.
You know what else makes this novel work? Need. The word “need” occurs over 200 times in this text. Why is this important? Because it adds to the feeling of adventure and the element of survival. These characters can clearly die. They clearly get hurt. They clearly require food, drink, and sleep. Their loved ones can be taken from them. There are real stakes involved in what's happening on-paper.
The Ebon Hammer are very formidable like the Adjudicars in “Gilraen and the Prophecy.” They're a mercenary guild whom everyone fears. They terrorize towns and act more like a cartel than a reputable guild.
Somehow, someway, the author is able to make characters seem cool and attractive without telling us how cool or attractive they are. That's an art. Seriously! The female character come across as incredibly “hot” just by virtue of how they're described as dressing, acting, and moving. There's a pub-owner's daughter in here who comes across as the hottest person on two legs just by virtue of being there. We have no idea how DeAngelo managed to do that. There's a time when character are just eating, and it's visceral. We can taste the food along with them.
Another thing that we liked about this novel is the chemistry between the characters. There's so much back and forth banter in here! Characters don't always do what they say or say what they mean. They're sarcastic and playful at times. Originally, we were gonna compare them to the Band of the Hawk from “Berserk” but they're not nearly as dysfunctional or—to be blunt—messed up in their heads. They're actually more like the A Team. They all have their own gifts and personalities which they bring to the table. Perhaps the second character who stands out beside Frederic is Bixby. Caira and the others are interesting at times too, but Bixby takes the cake as one of the coolest fools. There's just something about him. He's like that big, capable, friendly person you want to have around all the time. He's the national treasure you don't want anything bad to happen to.
All in all, "D'Aprile's Fools" is a gritty fantasy novel with memorable characters and stakes that the reader becomes emotionally invested in.
We highly recommend “D'Aprile's Fools” by Michael DeAngelo for those who love fantasy and adventure novels!