Finished Ruled Britannia
, Harry Turtledove
's alternate history Shakespearean thriller wherein the master playwright is commissioned by two opposing powers to write a Very Special Play in an England where the Armada succeeded and the Spaniards now rule.
Turtledove makes truly marvelous use of the language, juxtaposing surprisingly naturalistic Shakespearean dialect with more neutrally omniscient narrative voice. It's a rare writer who can pull off that combination of period flavour and modern comprehension*. Connie Willis
managed to pull this trick in her short story Winter's Tale
, but most authors fail miserably when they try.
And not only the awesomely evocative use of language, but also the plot is very well done, with characters' internal thoughts and motivations and external expressions of them shown with a subtle clarity. Scenes one thinks are simply pleasant scene-setting background detail filler-inners turn out to have surprising bearing on the plot later, and the whole seems beautifully laid out with a certain economical elegance, deftly woven into a magnificent whole.
While the heavy use of Shakespearean language won't be for everyone (by all means, do read the Kindle/Nook samples for the experience), I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in the Bard, the late Tudor period, and what-might-have-been. I bought this purely on impulse after reading In the Presence of Mine Enemies
, and I don't regret it in the least.
Plus there's nifty guest star roles and a good set of historical notes in the back, which I always love. Turtledove based more of this on actual history than I'd have thought, given that he normally loves to do these multi-volume epics where the US South won the Civil War only to run up against Nazi Germany before they all get invaded by alien space lizards, or stuff like that.
Now if you'll excuse me, methinks I needs must exit, pursued by a bear†.
* The vocabulary was unusual, and certainly gave my Kindle's dictionary a workout, but the meaning was perfectly understood from the surrounding context; except for that one constable who seemed to have been imported from the cast of 'Allo 'Allo!
† I started on Tim Davys
, an offbeat sleuth story with the conceit of being set amongst plush animals, wherein the PI is a stuffed bear. This is surprisingly still free for Canadian Kindlers, but it's not quite grabbing me like I hoped.