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The Folly of the World by Jesse BullingtonThe Folly of the World by Jesse Bullington

In a flooded 15th century Holland there are very few opportunities available. Jan may have an amazing opportunity at a life full of riches, but it’s hidden somewhere at the bottom of a flooded town. To reach his greedy goal in the dark moldy depths, Jan enlists the help of a wild young girl with a knack for swimming. Add Jan’s slightly psychotic but ever-faithful partner Sander to the mix and you have yourself a watery adventure with a cast to remember.

In both of his previous books, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart and The Enterprise of Death, Jesse Bullington went to great lengths to defy our expectations in every way. His characters were immoral, his language was foul, his violence was graphic, and his subject matter was often nauseating.

His fans will be pleased to know that The Folly of the World is full of the same decadence, degeneration, and gut-wrenching twists and turns we’ve come to know and love. The Folly of the World proudly carries the Bullington torch of depravity, but it’s applied in a more focused, less liberal manner — like using guided missiles instead of napalm.

The characters in The Folly of the World are as you would expect from Jesse Bullington — flawed, violent, and disturbed — but this time he has taken extra care to build a backstory that lets us understand why they turned out that way. Empathy can be a cruel tool for an author to wield. This was done so well that I was horrified to find myself actually feeling sorry for these despicable people. Readers who didn’t like The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart because of the characters may feel differently about this novel.

But as usual, Bullington still takes delight in making his readers very uncomfortable — The Folly of the World is filled with sexual tension, unwelcome surprises, and short lifespans, all of it weaved with masterful wordplay and dark humor. Bullington has perfected his voice in this novel. He’s taken the elements that his fans loved from his previous work and incorporated them in a manner that addresses the critiques of those who didn’t appreciate his earlier work. I think this demonstrates a sense of self awareness and growth as a writer. He was scary good before, and he just keeps getting better.

The Folly of the World is Bullington’s best work to date. I love his previous work, but this is something special. When I recommend his work to others, I’ll suggest this book first. Thanks, Mr. Bullington, for an excellent piece of fiction. And if you’re one of the readers who were grossed out by the Brothers Grossbart, try The Folly of the World.

The Folly of the World — (2012) Publisher: On a stormy night in 1421, the North Sea delivers a devastating blow to Holland: the Saint Elizabeth Flood, a deluge of biblical proportions that drowns hundreds of towns, thousands of people, and forever alters the geography of the Low Countries. Where the factions of the noble Hooks and the merchant Cods waged a literal class war but weeks before, there is now only a nigh-endless expanse of grey water, a desolate inland sea with moldering church spires jutting up like sunken tombstones. For a land already beleaguered by generations of civil war, a worse disaster could scarce be imagined. Yet even disaster can be profitable, for the right sort of individual, and into this flooded realm sail three conspirators: a deranged thug at the edge of madness, a ruthless conman on the cusp of fortune, and a half-feral girl balanced between them. If they work together they may find reward beyond reckoning, but such promise is no guarantee against betrayals born of greed, rage, and lust. In a topsy-turvey world where peasants feast while noblemen starve, these three uneasy confederates will learn that theft, fraud, and even murder are simply part of politics as usual in the island-city of Dordrecht, and even if their scheme succeeds they may not live long enough to enjoy it…


  • Justin Blazier

    JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff since September 2009) is a Cyber-Security Analyst/Network Engineer located in Northern Kentucky. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on authors like Tolkien, Anthony, and Lewis. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. When he is not reading books he is likely playing board games or Tabletop RPGs. Justin lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, their daughter, and Norman the dog.