by Jon Biddle
I’m a fickle reader and a writer, and there are few books that come across my desk that make me want to stop everything and read.
Well, this one one of those books. No, I might be a tad biased and I won’t apologies. The Sharpe series was and still is my all-time favourite books and there is a little piece of my heart reserved for Bernard Cornwell and after reading this book, that piece of my heart just got a little bigger.
How do you mix one of the best storytellers in modern times with the original storyteller of the time, Shakespeare?
This book is so exquisitely written, and I will push my head above the parapet for this statement. This is Cornwell’s finest work. The story clever, intelligent and respectful of the work by Shakespeare and yet, sometimes in this book I ached from laughing too much. The inn keeper, his wife and the punter sat at the bar in the Chicken Shit Inn talking about the bald man had me crying with laughter so good was the writing.
This book ticked all the sub-genre niches that I love to read and that will probably also swing the pendulum towards being bias however, the writing was rich in both character and life in that Olde London Town. With the cesspits, pox ridden ladies of the night and the weird notion of what some folk called gallantry. To the dangerous game between Shakespeare’s brother William and the master spy himself, none other than Sir Francis Walsingham. The most feared man of the Elizabethan era, a man so dangerous that you wouldn’t want to even look at him in the street. Yet Cornwell brought a humanistic side to him. And after all, we’re all human, right? We can all possess those character traits.
The heart of Elizabethan England, young Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in the London playhouses, dominated by his older brother, William. But as a penniless actor with a silver tongue, Richard’s onetime gratitude begins to sour, as does his family loyalty.
So it is that Richard falls under suspicion when a priceless manuscript goes missing, forcing him into a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal, and through the darkest alleyways of the city.
In this richly portrayed tour de force, Fools and Mortals takes you among the streets and palaces, scandals and rivalries, and lets you stand side-by-side with the men and women of Bernard Cornwell’s masterful Elizabethan London.