Intelligent historical fantasy fiction at its best,
This review is from: Ink and Steel: A Novel of the Promethean Age (Kindle Edition)
I bought this book primarily because it featured playwright Christopher (Kit) Marlowe (a really interesting historical character worth Googling even if you have no interest in his writings). I also love fantasy so I reckoned I'd take a chance with an unknown author.
The story takes place in the late 1500s of our (real) world, and at the court of Queen Mabd in the land of Faerie. The author takes some known facts about Christopher Marlowe (that he was a writer, a homosexual, a spy for Queen Elizabeth I, and was killed in a bar brawl in 1593) and cleverly weaves these elements into her story with a fantastical twist on them.
The basic premise of the story is that our world and the land of Faerie are linked, and when one is strong, so is the other. There are factions trying to undermine Queen Elizabeth and Kit is involved with a group known as the Prometheus Club, who are trying to protect their queen and country. When Kit is supposedly killed, William Shakespeare takes his place in the group, using stories and plays as a method of keeping the enemy's black magic at bay.
The story moves between the real world and Faerie with much plotting, scheming and betrayals thrown in. Ms Bear writes with a gorgeous atmospheric prose, which gives the novel a historical feel. The real charm of the book, however, lies in the author's portrayals of Kit and Will, and their relationship. Kit is such a beautifully drawn character, vulnerable and damaged. Will is torn between his loves and his obligations. There is something of an erotic theme running through the novel, though it's never explicit. Indeed, one scene where two protagonists kiss contains more sexual tension than most of the current urban fantasy authors could manage in their entire careers. (I should say if you are grossed out at the concept of man love, this may not be the book for you).
I absolutely adored this book and have already ordered the sequel. This is not perhaps the book for Twilight or Anita Blake fans, but it is intelligent, beautifully written and quite memorable, and deserves greater recognition.