Sunday 3 November 2019

Book Review: Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann (Historical Fiction)

Title: Tyll
Author: Daniel Kehlmann
Quercus/Hachette Australia

Publication Date: 11 February 2020
eBook - EPUB
Historical Fiction
ARC via NetGalley


He's a trickster, a player, a jester. His handshake's like a pact with the devil, his smile like a crack in the clouds; he's watching you now and he's gone when you turn. Tyll Ulenspiegel is here!

In a village like every other village in Germany, a scrawny boy balances on a rope between two trees. He's practising. He practises by the mill, by the blacksmiths; he practises in the forest at night, where the Cold Woman whispers and goblins roam. When he comes out, he will never be the same.

Tyll will escape the ordinary villages. In the mines he will defy death. On the battlefield he will run faster than cannonballs. In the courts he will trick the heads of state. As a travelling entertainer, his journey will take him across the land and into the heart of a never-ending war.

A prince's doomed acceptance of the Bohemian throne has European armies lurching brutally for dominion and now the Winter King casts a sunless pall. Between the quests of fat counts, witch-hunters and scheming queens, Tyll dances his mocking fugue; exposing the folly of kings and the wisdom of fools.

With macabre humour and moving humanity, Daniel Kehlmann lifts this legend from medieval German folklore and enters him on the stage of the Thirty Years' War. When citizens become the playthings of politics and puppetry, Tyll, in his demonic grace and his thirst for freedom, is the very spirit of rebellion - a cork in water, a laugh in the dark, a hero for all time. 

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but in the end I found it highly enjoyable. Kehlmann does a wonderful job relocating medieval folklore trickster Tyll into the middle of the Thirty Years' War and the Early Modern era. In the book, Tyll acts as both a catalyst and a mirror as his travels allow us to see the events of the war through the eyes and experiences of many different characters. The work is fairly episodic, but it all ties together nicely through Tyll. The prose is very readable, and there is a well-balanced blending of humour and drama. I would definitely be interested in reading more of Kehlmann's works.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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