Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ruled Britania by Harry Turtledove

A while ago I tried reading a series of books Mr. Turtledove wrote about aliens invading during WWII. It was, quite simply, boring beyond imagination, at least for me. So when a friend handed me a book called "Ruled Britania" by the same author I took it with a bit of trepidation, but I was wrong.

The book is excellent and flows quite well. The first 40-50 pages are somewhat slow, but once the action starts, it keeps up right until the end. The basic plot of the story is a 'what if' (for which Harry Turtledove has become known as the absolute master) in which the Spanish Armada wasn't defeated in 1588, and instead successfully invaded England. A rich english aristocrat, Elizabeth's former spy master, sets about commissioning Shakespeare to write a place called 'Boudicea' to inspire the people of England to revolution. Of course, at the same time, the governor of England commissions him to write a play about King Phillip the II, to commemorate Spain's dying King. Shakespeare has to do both at the same time in an otherwise extremely difficult situation.

The thing I found most fascinating was the fact that many of the minor characters (but not all) were quite real as well. Mr. Turtledove did a very good job of making them seem quite real. For example, the Spanish are somewhat brutal, but they are hardly mustache twirling Snidely Whiplashes. Added to this fact is Turtledove's use of Lope De Vega, a Spanish playwrite (and in this case soldier as well) for the Spanish perspective and you get a rich and deep plot.

I highly recommend it if you like historical fiction.

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