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Bernard Cornwell is pretty much at the pinnacle of my personal list of military history authors. His Sharpe, Starbuck Chronicles and Lost Kingdom series have been great sources of entertainment for me. This is a massive departure though and was possibly always going to happen given Cornwell's love of theatre and Shakespeare in particular.
Unlike some other recent examples of my favourite authors heading off on a tangent I genuinely enjoyed this. The viewpoint that Cornwell chooses is Richard who is William Shakespeare's younger, better looking but rather less fortunate brother. It's through his needy and almost desperate need to succeed as a player that Cornwell portrays the precarious nature of the life of a young player in Elizabethan England.
There is much detail about the theatre and its workings with the first performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream forming the core of the plot. Interwoven with this are a love story, a tale of rival actors including one Will Kemp and a plot of sabotage by a rival company to complete the drama.
So, I enjoyed it but I wouldn't give it absolutely top billing. The period has been very heavily covered and those who enjoy this style of book will likely not find too much that's new or better here. There's plenty of charm but it lacks a real x factor with a plot that's just a bit too mild mannered and predictable despite the odd snippet of violence. At times it felt slightly flat to me but it does gain momentum through the second half.
So, definitely a worthy effort but while he masterfully strides the battlefields of history Cornwell has a distance to go before he can claim to lord it over Elizabethan society.
11 of 13 people found this review helpful
Loved this from Cornwell. Such a brave shift from the conventional battlefield to the theatrical one! Such characters and characterisation from the narrator really give life to the world of the Elizabethan theatre. Absolute brilliance!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This is in true Cornwell fashion--without the swords or guns...A well-structured and well-told story. But then he always tells a good story. You always empathise with his characters and you will here as well. This will not disappoint if you are a Cornwell fan.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful