Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Ruled Britannia by Harry Turtledove

Ruled Britannia
by Harry Turtledove
Published by ROC
ISBN 0-451-45915-6

The year is 1597. For nearly a decade, the island of Britain has been under the rule of King Philip in the name of Spain. The citizenry live under an enforced curfew - and in fear of the Inquisition's agents, who put heretics to the torch in public displays. And with Queen Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower of London, the British have no one to unite them against the enemy who occupies their land.
William Shakespeare has no interest in politics. His passion is the theatre, where his words bring laughter and tears to a populace afraid to speak out against the tyranny of the Spanish crown. But now Shakespeare is given an opportunity to pen his greatest work - a drama that will incite the people of Britain to rise against their persecutors - and change the course of history....

The man called "The dean of alternate historians" (Is it just me or does alternative sound better than alternate?) brings us another of his what ifs. Only this time it is in Elizabethan England after a successful Armada conquers England. Starting with the pageantry and spectacle of an auto-da-fe he brings us everyday life in London under Philip II. Not only do we get to sample the everyday life of William Shakespeare, we also get to meet some historic Elizabethan characters such as Lord Burghley and his son Robert, Christopher 'Kit' Marlowe, Richard Burbage and Francis and his older brother Anthony Bacon. Adding to Shakespeare's problem is his friend and Spanish officer Lope de Vega sent to infiltrate the theatre looking for treason. Written somewhat in the language and style of the era Turtledove finds many ways to insert Shakespearean quotes into the story to good effect. In the notes Turtledove states that Lope de Vega was Spain's Shakespeare who actually survived the Armada, I'm sure anyone here with a knowledge of Spanish Literature will recognise the name. All in all a fun read with a bonus for Shakespeare fans of spot the quote, or more often misquote.

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