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4.2 out of 5 stars29
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on 22 May 2012
I must have read this book at least ten years ago, when it first came out, and I still rate it highly.

It's the story of Nat, a very normal American teenage boy who comes to London with his theatre troupe to perform A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Globe Theatre. However, he becomes suddenly very ill and awakes from a feverish dream... in Shakespeare's time.

By an eerie twist of fate he seems to have taken the place of a boy called Nate, who is also set to play the character of Puck in Shakespeare's Dream. Shakespeare himself is playing Oberon, and the relationship that Nat (who is still reeling from the death of his own father back in America) develops with the great man is incredibly moving.

What really makes this book stand out is the attention to detail - I learnt so much about how theatres of that time worked, the language they used and all the major characters who played a part , such as Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, and a brief appearance by Queen Elizabeth I. Cooper has obviously done her research into the era and it is bought vividly to life with the sounds and smells and sights of the city, from waste rotting in the streets, the ale and rough meaty pasties that they eat, bear-baiting, and the lush textures of the gorgeous costumes created for the play. It is these elements that ground the book in reality and make the somewhat fantastical time-travel aspect completely believable.

The book also explores the text of A Midsummer Night's Dream in a fascinating and accessible way, linking it to Shakespeare's life. If any book is going to make teenagers want to read Shakespeare, study Tudor history and visit the Globe, then I truly believe that this is it.
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on 22 June 2001
Nat Field, a young American orphan traumatized by the death of his father, comes to England to play Puck at The Globe. Somewhat bizarrely, he contracts Bubonic Plague and is rushed to Guy's. The next morning he wakes up in the house of Richard Burbage in 1599 and is raced off to The Globe to play (you've guessed it!) Puck in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' Naturally, he meets Shakespeare and Gloriana and....I won't ruin any more of this fabulous story.
Susan Cooper has written a novel of genuine historical interest ( I have been researching the life of the real Nathaniel Field ever since) and powerful emotional impact - the end is breathtaking. I cried. Both times I read it. And I'm a 31 year old man!
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on 3 August 2013
The plot starts off reasonably enough: Nathan Field is a modern-day Apple Pie American schoolboy who comes over to England with his all-male drama group to put on a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the new Globe Theatre. So far so good. Unfortunately, no sooner has Nat arrived in the city of red telephone boxes and black cabs than he picks up bubonic plague from nowhere and after a few odd moments, finds himself in the previous Globe Theatre 400 years ago. Yes, not the rebuild but Shakespeare's original wooden square-shaped sewer-pit theatre, complete with actors (and no actresses) from the period.

Nat seems to take this sudden change of time and place remarkably well and soon puts his all into rehearsals for the big number they're planning to put on for Madge, known in those days as Queen Elizabeth (the White One). By the way, communicating with humans from 400 years ago doesn't faze our Nat. Despite the fact that there is no chance that modern-day Americans and 16th-century Londoners would have a clue what the other was saying, throw in a few instances of `thou' and `tha' now and again and it seems all language barriers are no longer a problem.
Anyway, "why is this happening to me?" For a start, is it a dream? No, it's worse than that. Nat has changed places with another Nathan Field - this one from the 1590s - who is now busy sweating it out at Guy's Hospital (or St Thomas' or wherever) because something extremely odd has happened. Don't bank on the explanation making any sense at all.

Meanwhile, Nat Number 1 (the American who has gone back in time) meets the Bard himself and quicker than you can say `Romeo and Juliet', Wills and Master Nat are bezzies.

Young Nat, by the way, is the pint-sized equivalent of New Man. He's sensitive and wimpy, dissolving into floods of tears at the drop of a hat and parking his head on the nearest shoulder, namely Uncle Will's. This is because his Pa died a long time ago in an era far away and he has a phobia about discussing it with anyone unless they happen to be W Shakespeare Esq. You see, Old Shakey has this magic touch when dealing with 20th-century American boys.

In fact, our all-American hero is dexterity on two legs, cartwheeling his way over the boards and wowing his peers in Tudor times, as well as making a few enemies here and there in the shape of some jealous 13-year-old boys (I'm guessing: their ages are never mentioned but as Nat points out, the moment their voices break, they'll be on the scrap heap).

Nat has a unique way of dealing with his enemies. It just so happens that he is a dab hand when it comes to first aid and the moment his nemesis - the one they call Roper - starts all-a-choking, he tries out the Heimlich manoeuvre on him with astonishing success. Out pops the offending item and Master Field has saved the day. Forsooth. Now everyone is on his side.

Nat travelling back 400 years is the most convincing aspect of the book. Less easy to swallow are the attitudes of everyone involved plus some misplaced faith in the NHS. While Nat (whichever of them) has been thrashing about in hospital, the nurses (and there's no shortage of them) are attending to his every whim and taking a keen interest in him. This is beginning to make even `Casualty' look realistic.

Don't think for one moment that this is just some daft time-shifting story. We are actually treated to some patronising history/English lessons that we didn't ask for. London in the early 1600s was a city full of poverty and not a lot in the way of personal hygiene, boys played women's parts in plays, and life in general was hit and miss. We knew all that already and we don't need it rammed down our throats.

However, one could argue that Ms Cooper "brings it alive" for us in this bizarre and ramshackle mish-mash of fact and fiction. Yes, it seems there really was a Nathan Field alive in Shakespeare's time who became a noted actor. Look it up and you can read all about him. Was he a St Paul's pupil of Richard Mulcaster? Indeed. Did he switch places with an American boy from 400 years hence? Probably not. However, at least we're talking about it and discovered something we didn't know.
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on 5 March 2012
The King of Shadows by Susan Cooper
Reviewed by Heena Pala

"King of Shadows" is a skilfully-written book about Nathan Field. Nathan is an orphan who lives in America. There, he is part of a boys company of acting run by a man called Arby.
Nat is sent to England to play Puck at a performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Globe theatre, London. Tragically, a few days before the performance, Nat goes into hospital with severe sickness and dizziness. He then finds that he has contracted...wait for it... the bubonic plague! When he wakes up, he awakes in Elizabethan hospital, living in Elizabethan England and living an Elizabethan life...
But if Nat has travelled back in time, who has taken Nat's place in present time? Enjoy this great book full of time travel and theatre both in Elizabethan and present time.

I loved every minute of this book. I think that it's very different; I haven't read many other books about time travel, and none quiet like this one. I like how some chapters in italic are about present time and some are about the Nat that has travelled back. I recommend it to anyone looking for a book that is fiction, but also informative as it tells you a lot about Elizabethan life. If there was a down side to this book, it would be that it ended a little quickly. It doesn't introduce the ending slowly as it finished in a couple of chapters.

RATING: 9/10
PULISHER: Puffin books
RRP: £6.99
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on 8 March 2014
I did this for my hlp homework, however after I started reading I just couldn't stop! It was amazing! Cheesysideburns007
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on 2 February 2009
I was sad when I finished the book, like leaving a friend - it is a book to immerse youself in
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on 25 April 2014
I previously only knew of Susan Cooper from the wonderful Dark is Rising novels. This is quite different, a time travel back to Shakespeare's Globe theatre. I think it would very much appeal to YA or older children, particularly those who have ever done any acting.
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on 9 July 2003
I have always loved The Dark Is Rising Sequence by this author, counting it as one of my favourite reads. I was therefore delighted to find that she had written another book. However, I was disappointed by this attempt. Although I loved her portrayal of Shakespeare and his relations with Nat, I felt that not enough care was taken to ensure that the story was even halfway believable and I was disappointed by the rather rushed and predictable ending. I do feel that this book is worth reading though, as it shows flashes of the genius that ran through her earlier books.
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on 20 January 2008
One of the best Books I've read, and considering how many books I have read it is really really good!
I definitely recommend it!
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on 31 December 2010
this book is absoloutly amazing! we read this book in english at school and no one had a bad word to say about it.
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