Quicksilver, youngest child of Titania and Oberon, was to be the heir to their kingdom. On their disappearance, however, his older brother, Sylvanus, stole the throne and Quicksilver became immersed in bitterness and hatred. He would do anything to regain his rightful place, regardless of the hurt he might cause to others.
Sylvanus, fancier of mortal women, has just lost his wife to childbirth. He takes a solid, and to him immeasurably attractive, country woman, nursing her own child, to be nursemaid to his motherless child-with the intent of making her much more than just a nursemaid.
Will Shakespeare comes come from work one evening to find his wife and infant daughter missing, replaced by sticks of wood. Sick with worry, he sets out on the long walk to Nan's family, in hopes she has been called there to attend a pregnant relative. While passing through Arden Forrest he sees the most bizarre vision: his wife, Nan, dressed in courtly clothing dancing with royalty in a castle set in air that Will cannot penetrate. Quicksilver involves Will in his plot for the throne, throwing the four of them-five if you count Quicksilver's spurned lover-into a plot worthy of the bard himself.
Sarah Hoyt's interpretation of Will Shakespeare's past is novel and enjoyable, with both humor and seriousness. As Shakespeare often did , Hoyt gives the comedy some tragic turns-some, however, that I felt weren't well enough resolved. I would be interested to hear what other readers have to say as well. She gives another nod to Shakespeare by throwing in quotes, tongue in cheek, in a mostly amusing way. Some seemed to forced, but they often brought a grin.
I enjoyed seeing the young, tentative Will who was very much in love with his older wife Nan. He proves himself to be very much the nineteen-year-old boy, who loves both with his heart and with his-well, his other parts. He was no match for the wiles of Quicksilver or for the beautiful mysterious woman. It is said that mortals who have been loved by an elf go crazy-Hoyt points out Kit Marlow and then shows Will following that same path, a nice wink toward his greatness and it's source.
I also enjoyed seeing Anne Hathaway Shakespeare in another role than that of shrew, as so many portray her. In Ill Met By Moonlight, Nan has a strong (though not shrewish) character, both standing up to Sylvanus and looking out for Will's best interest; it is she that I was the most fond of by the end of the book.
Overall, this was a fresh take on an old subject and I found it, if not engrossing, generally delightful. Of all the Shakespeare-as-hero-fiction I've read thus far, this is by far my favorite.