Meticulously researched and intensely realized… Thorough fun.
Vividly evocative and steeped in the grand world of Elizabethan theatre, the second installment in Wildman’s Lost years series takes readers on an exhilarating adventure as the reluctent hero gets drawn into the murky world of espionage. William Shakespeare is finally back from Italy and is happy to be working with his friend Kit Marlow in London’s acting troupes, The Queen’s Men. When one of the troupe members dies under suspicious circumstances, leaving a coded note, the young man finds himself becoming entangled into the sinister world of conspiracy and espionage. With England facing the challenge of the Spanish Armada and the possibility of invasion, it becomes imperative that Shakespeare unravels the conspiracy soon. Wildman’s writing is straightforward and penetrating: splendid descriptions of the acting troupe’s travels make palpable the varied beauty of the landscape, from Oxfordshire to Stratford-Upon-Avon to Leicester and further to Oxford and London with its great residences of the nation’s preening nobility, their many-windowed facades and reeking chimney-pots visible at a distance. Throughout Shakespeare’s journey are hundreds of colorful details, such as the actors’ frantic rehearsals, acting troupes traveling overseas to perform, details of all the great deal of work, that goes into creating theater companies, such as finding actors, purchasing costumes, negotiating places to rehearse and perform plays, and a play being used to trap a potential murderer and plotter in the company among other. The pace picks up and tension rises after the Spanish plans for sending armada up the Channel and the plot to dethrone the Queen and replace her with a Catholic puppet comes to surface. Shakespeare is a fully fleshed-out, authentic hero. He is cautious and smart; a playwright through and through. Marlowe is careless and wild, and his fascination for matters of state and for secrets makes him endearing in his own way. The secondary characters are memorable, and we’re treated to a host of them: struggling poets and pamphlet-writers, makers of music and scene-painters, hapless actors, clowns, and acrobats, lords, ladies, and earls. From Telamon to Tamburlaine to The Friar of Nottingham to the Arden of Faversham, Wildman leaves no stone unturned in this intriguing story of conspiracy and courage. There are plenty of tense moments, and clever plotting lays the groundwork for a satisfying ending with just enough hints of potential troubles ahead to make readers anxious about the next one in the series. Conspiracy, action, bravery, and courage that make for fine historical fiction is all here.
The Queen’s Player
The Lost Years of William Shakespeare Book 2
Pub date November 18, 2022
Price $14.99 (USD) Paperback, $0.00 Kindle