I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
London 1599, a city on the brink of revolution...
He is Queen Elizabeth's last, perhaps her greatest, love - Robert Deveraux, Earl of Essex. Champion jouster, dashing general...and the man that John Lawley, England's finest swordsman, most wishes to avoid. For John knows the other earl - the reckless melancholic - and has had to risk his life for him in battle one time too many.
All John wants is to be left alone to win back the heart of the woman he loves, be the kind of father that his son can look up to, and arrange the fight scenes for the magnificent new theatre, the Globe. To realise these dreams, John must dodge both Essex and his ruthless adversary for the queen's affections, Robert Cecil, and remain free to help his oldest friend Will Shakespeare finish the play that threatens to destroy him: THE TRAGEDY OF HAMLET.
I picked up this novel in anticipation of a writers & readers conference that I attend in August of each year, as this author will be participating this year. I did not know what to expect but got much more than I was bargaining for!
Humphreys played to his strengths—he has played Hamlet (here in my home town!), knows his way around a sword, has choreographed fight scenes for theatre, and has a passion for Shakespeare. All of these interests have been channeled into this tale of John Lawley. Lawley is a solider, an actor and an alcoholic—he is rather evenly devoted to all three, but the third has made it difficult for him to pursue the other two or to maintain a relationship with his son and the son’s mother.
I love books in which William Shakespeare himself appears as a character and he is a good friend of Lawley in this one. Will is struggling with the writing of Hamlet while Robbie Deveraux and Robert Cecil wrestle for Queen Elizabeth’s affections.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good historical fiction, who is interested in the history surrounding Queen Elizabeth I, or who is a fan of Shakespeare. I am very much looking forward to meeting the author in August and I will read more of his novels with great pleasure.