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It is the year of Our Lord 1597.The Place is London in England.
Let your eye zoom in on the bustling crowds as they go about their daily chores. The language may prove strange to your ears.
Step back quickly to the side of the road as this group of swaggering armed men walk the street. You do not want any trouble with these men. Near by there is a quiet man in a green doublet.
He doesn't know it yet but soon he will be placed in mortal danger. He is only an actor and playwright who wishes to make a decent living.
Soon he will be hired to do what he does best, write a play. But not just any play. It must fire the hearts of Englishmen.
His name, William Shakespeare.
In this view of an alternate history, Harry Turtledove has an England that has been under Spanish Rule for nearly ten years following a sucessful invasion. Elizabeth, the former Queen is lodged in The Tower of London. Many of her leading advisors have been executed.
England is ruled for King Philip II of Spain by his daughter Isabella.Spanish soldiers keep an uneasy peace supported by Irish mercenaries, Spanish troops and English colaborators.
The Catholic Church with the inquisition watches every facet of life.Woe betide any who fall fowl of them for the Auto de Fe is always waiting to claim a new victim, whilst promising to save his soul.
With a clever mixture of facts and fiction, with persons historical and not, Mr Turtledove has woven a convincing story of an England where the Spanish Armada succeeded in its invasion.
Using dialog set in the times and working in many clever quotes from Shakespeare’s own works he has created a rich tapestry of events that is totally believable.The whole development of 16th century London with its streets, taverns, theaters and other entertainments has been quite a labour.Its sucess makes this a memorable book.
In this book we will meet such historical figures as William Shakespeare himself, Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, William Cecil-Lord Burgley, Will Kemp, Richard Burbage and a Spanish poet and playwright Lope de Vega.There is a full cast of minor players both Noble and Commons who are believable, including one character whose mangled language is a treasure.
For me this was a real page turner. I wanted to know how the story would come out. For anybody who has an interest in historical fiction, I would highly recommend this work.
Getting your hands on a copy may prove to be a little more difficult.This was published first in America by New American Library, which is a branch of Penguin Putnam Inc, who also own ROC who published the paperback version.
Hardcover details are:-ISBN: 0451207173 458 pages Published Nov 2002
Paperback version: - ISBN: 0451459156 576 pages Published Sept 2003
Both are listed on Amazon.co.uk Hardcover £14.93 used and new from £2.11
Paperback £3.93 used and new from £2.12
If you only read one alternate history type of book this year. it should be this one.Prepare to be well entertained.