Young Adult Historical Fiction
She is the girl who will be queen: Ophelia, daughter of Denmark’s lord chancellor and loved by Prince Hamlet.
But while Hamlet’s family stab, poison or haunt one another, Ophelia plans a sensible rule, one filled with justice and the making of delicious cheeses. Even if she has to pretend to be mad to make it happen, Ophelia will let nothing, not even howling ghosts, stand in her way.
This is Shakespeare’s play, but with what might also have happened behind the scenes.
In general I quite enjoyed this novel. It’s fairly short and easy to read, and I thought the worldbuilding was also very good. I had a clear mental image of the setting and the people involved in Ophelia’s life. I quite enjoyed the descriptions of food and clothing and the general running of the castle. But I did get sick of Ophelia’s cheese references.
Written in first person from Ophelia’s point of view, we get to see Shakespeare’s play from a different (female) perspective. For the most part, I liked this version of Ophelia. She’s a little naive, but generally straightforward and pragmatic (at least in her internal narration).
I found the change between Ophelia’s internal voice and the flowery Shakespearean ‘courtly speak’ used between characters quite jarring. It only started happening from the middle of the book, and I don’t understand Shakespeare at the best of times, so I was pretty confused when it first appeared. It was like Jackie French just dropped lines from the play straight into a completely different style of writing.
I didn’t like Ophelia’s relationship with Hamlet at all. It was weird and kind of smacked of insta-love. That being said, it does mirror the play, and Ophelia does reflect on it, which was a relief.
The novel explores themes ranging from greed, to gender divisions to what makes a good ruler.
Other than that, I thought the middle dragged a bit, but I thought the twists on the original play were clever and original.
Young Adult Contemporary Magical Realism
Madeleine and Rogan are first cousins, best friends, twinned souls, each other’s first love. Even within their large, disorderly family—all descendants of a famous actress—their intensity and passion for theater sets them apart. It makes them a little dangerous. When they are cast in their school’s production of Twelfth Night, they are forced to face their separate talents and futures, and their future together.
This stunning short novel, winner of the World Fantasy Award, is the perfect introduction to Elizabeth Hand’s singular voice. Her many novels offer a window into what it means to create art, to experience it, to feel passionately about the world. Illyria throws her talent into high relief—it is magic on paper.
I don’t want to say this is a bad book. It had lovely writing and some beautiful scenes. It was more of a character study than anything else, which is fine, but ultimately I felt it lacked anything resembling a plot. I just couldn’t see what the point of it was.
Also, it wasn’t a retelling. It just featured Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night as part of the story. CW: incest, drug use, implied child abuse.
The critically acclaimed author of The Fool’s Tale, Nicole Galland now approaches William Shakespeare’s classic drama of jealousy, betrayal, and murder from the opposite side. I, Iago is an ingenious, brilliantly crafted novel that allows one of literature’s greatest villains–the deceitful schemer Iago, from the Bard’s immortal tragedy, Othello–to take center stage in order to reveal his “true” motivations. This is Iago as you’ve never known him, his past and influences breathtakingly illuminated, in a fictional reexamination that explores the eternal question: is true evil the result of nature versus nurture…or something even more complicated?
I don’t have a lot to say about this book. I was interested because I like retellings that explore the villains and their back stories. The writing was decent, but I didn’t care about Iago or his life. Basically, I was bored and I didn’t give two hoots about all the military descriptions (the weapons, the strategies, the training, the barracks.)
Young Adult Historical Fantasy
In the Houses of Montague and Capulet, there is only one goal: power. The boys are born to fight and die for honor and—if they survive—marry for influence and money, not love. The girls are assets, to be spent wisely. Their wishes are of no import. Their fates are written on the day they are born.
Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona—and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona…
… And will rewrite all their fates, forever.
The first thing I want to say is that this book was extremely addictive. I flew through it. The writing quality is excellent, and Rachel Caine really knows how to emphasise the right notes of a story.
Told primarily in first person from Benvolio’s point of view, Prince of Shadows is the story we know, but so much more. There’s a little bit of a supernatural edge, but it’s mostly realistic (although not necessarily completely believable.)
It was a compelling, action-packed read. I loved the twists on the original, and I think I almost prefer this version. There was still plenty of character development, especially within the Montague household. That being said, there were some dark, violent and frankly distressing scenes.
I often forget to provide trigger warnings because I’m pretty tolerant of awful things, but in this case I feel it’s important. There is a particularly brutal murder of a gay man, and it is a pivotal moment in the narrative. Whether this makes it more or less problematic, I don’t know. All I know is that I was sobbing in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, and my heart was breaking. As for other triggers, since I’m already on a roll, there’s plenty of death, violence and blood. There’s also suicide and homophobia.