License to Quill

License to Quill

Book - 2015
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"License to Quill is a page-turning James Bond-esque spy thriller starring William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe during history's real life Gunpowder Plot. The story follows the fascinating golden age of English espionage, the tumultuous cold war gripping post-Reformation Europe, the cloak-and-dagger politics of Shakespeare's England, and lastly, the mysterious origins of the Bard's most haunting play: Macbeth. You won't want to miss this fast-paced historical retelling!"--
Publisher: New York : St. Martin's Griffin, 2015.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781250059659
1250059658
Branch Call Number: FIC DELLA QUERCIA, JACOPO
Characteristics: 375 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm

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gvenkatesh
Aug 18, 2016

The book is a magnificently researched effort in historical fiction but the result is an insipid, unsatisfying novel that is neither thrilling nor very funny.

The author has chosen late 16th - early 17th century England ripe with historical events and powerful characters to weave his fictional story. Using the conjectures about Christopher Marlowe having been a spy, he brings in Shakespeare as another agent to give a seamless narrative encompassing the events of that time such as the Gun Powder Plot leading to the Bonfire night (Guy Fawkes day) - even including a fictional reason for penning Macbeth. The novel is likely to be much more entertaining to the few dozen history buffs, steeped daily in that period and on a first name basis with the various other characters, just to see how it all fits the known facts and characters.

Perhaps to make it more approachable to the rest of the audience, the author has chosen to make the characters the period versions of characters in James Bond novels by creating imitative equivalents (as mentioned in the professional reviews) that would draw boos and groans if in front of an audience. Since the period in the book pre-dates steam powered gizmos, this is a "horsepunk" than steampunk with Shakespeare's transport being a horse named Aston replacing his previous steed named Bentley (boo, hiss, groan). More like a The Jetsons episode. Unfortunately, the "spy" characters alternate freely between a Mike Myers parody and the poker-faced seriousness of Jude Law (Spy) to carry it through credibly.

The story finale is like a nightmare induced after a binge watching session on Netflix of all the Bond movies, Lord of the Rings series and Mummy Returns.

Might be worth reading if you are a history buff of that period. Just don't expect to find the intellectual/creative depth of Umberto Eco's historical fiction.

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