Friday, February 10, 2012

Hell and Earth: A Novel of the Promethean Age By Elizabeth Bear is an alternate history story involving William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. It is the fourth book in the Promethean Age series. It is also the second half of a story that started in Ink and Steel. If you haven't read the first half you're going to be a bit confused. 

I don't really like alternate history novels or historical fiction, for that matter. Unless they take place in ancient Egypt. I can't seem to get enough of those. I've read a few books that have Shakespeare as a main character but they really don't seem to be able to do him justice. This book is no exception. 

Bear's Shakespeare is a man caught between two lovers: his wife, Anne and Kit Marlowe. One would think that in a world where words are magic, Shakespeare would be a major player but that doesn't seem to be the case. I felt more sorry for him as I read. I guess I just expected him to be more.

I know very little of Kit Marlowe so I can't comment on how he was characterized. His inner angst did get a little annoying after a while. If Shakespeare has two lovers, Marlowe has three. Besides the Bard, Kit is pursued by the Devil himself and an Fae prince. Busy boy that one.

The story is interesting. Two courts, Fae and mortal are connected. When Elizabeth dies everything changes. Marlowe and Shakespeare must stop the Prometheans from taking over England. Guy Fawkes is a minor character and his actions part of the plot they must stop.

There are a lot of things going on in this book. If you like things a little convoluted - sometimes you need a scorecard to keep people straight - then you'll like this story. I found the pain and suffering to be a bit drawn out but it was still a good read. Good enough that I'll probably look for the other novels in this series.
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