Review: Fool Me Once (Court of Pain Book 1) by Ariana Nash

Rating: 4.5 🌈

Fool Me Once is Ariana Nash’s opening act in her new dark fantasy series. This is a story and series that comes with a author’s note about triggers in the themes. However, it sends the reader to the author’s website to read them so they aren’t readily accessible.

They should be. While everything that happens and is brought up fits in with character development and the universe that’s being created by Nash , it’s disturbing enough to warrant the trigger warnings.

They include off page forced incest, off page rape, attempted suicide, dubious consent, knife play, revenge sex, torture , and enforced confinement/imprisonment by means of a collar. So yes, plenty of triggers.

Now that’s dealt with, Nash is also creating a darkly fascinating world of shattered lands, a missing god, and warring crowns that should be helping each other to safeguard and protect the world the god left for them. Instead they are creating chaos by attacking each other.

Dallin, God of Order divided the Shattered lands into 4 crowns for 4 courts. Love, Justice, Pain, and War.

What a grand concept and Nash starts the arc and journey into the mystery of the missing god with the horrific events and violence that is the world currently.

There’s Lark, one of the darkest, most traumatized, and multi-layered individuals here. He’s the Court of Love’s Jester , a master manipulator of people, a collector and distributor of lies and illusions. He’s both the agony of heartbreak , he’s deceit, and potentially the weak hope for love to revive and survive all the worst this world has to throw at it and him.

This is such a carefully written character that his depths are only gradually revealed through the storytelling. And I expect to see more as the series progresses. I think he’s going to break our hearts. Again and again.

There’s more important characters, each with startling strengths, worse frailties, and appalling histories. One is the mysterious Prince of Love. To reveal anything about this astonishing character is to spoil some of the best narrative elements Nash has in store for the reader.

Psychologically, emotionally, the Prince is impressive because, like Lark, he’s nothing like what he appears on the surface. Everyone here operates on hidden agendas, deep secrets, and years of planning for revenge/ulterior motives. It’s a narrative chess game but done with extreme violence and long range tactical aggression.

Much like her last series, the deck of cards and card tricks are woven into the story and strategy of Lark’s character. I found that a interesting element. And want to see how it’s used going forward.

Also like Nash’s Shadows of London series, this ends in a cliffhanger. So I expect the rest of the books to follow that format too.

I was enthralled by Nash’s dark new world and traumatized characters. I was so connected to Lark, and all the events as they were occurring. It’s a bleak place, Lark and the rest are indeed in a chaotic world. Read the trigger warnings and take them to heart.

Then decide if adult dark fiction with amazing characters and a well written harrowing story to follow is for you.

I’m recommending it under those guidelines.

Court of Pain :

✓ Fool Me Once #1

◦ Fool Me Twice #2 – TBD


The king of the Court of Love wants me dead, the queen wants me in her bed, and the prince… He wants the only piece of me I will never surrender.

They call me jester, dancer, trickster, lover.

I exist to entertain.

But behind my sideways smiles, my quick hands and magician’s tricks, I trade in their lies, their secrets. I know their deepest desires, their wicked schemes. Their sins are my currency.

Their reign is a card castle, and I hold the card that’s about to bring it all down.

And they say I’m the fool…

Amazon buy link:

Buy or borrow here.

Fool Me Once is a dark MM fantasy brimming with courtly spice, morally ambiguous anti-heroes, and a fool who plays them all.

This is a dark world with adult MM content.

Potentially triggering content includes but is not limited to: attempted suicide (main character), incest (non-consensual, off-page, not between main characters), dubious consent (main characters), knife play (main characters), revenge sex (main character, off-page).

Assume triggers are on-page, unless off-page is specified above.

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.

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