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Fools and Mortals    by Bernard Cornwell order for
Fools and Mortals
by Bernard Cornwell
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2018 (2018)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've been a devoted fan of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Tales from their beginning, so approach any new novel of his with great anticipation. His latest, Fools and Mortals, takes us into a very different world than that of the violent, action-packed life of Uhtred of Bebbanburg - the origins of theatre in Shakespeare's London - but there's still plenty of action and intrigue on-stage and off.

Readers follow the adventures of Shakespeare's younger brother Richard who fled problems at home in Stratford when he was fourteen, and sought refuge with his sibling in London. Now, he's a poorly paid actor (and occasional thief to make ends meet) in his brother's company. Richard's youth and good looks have won him female roles, but he's tired of playing women and desperately wants to play mens' parts on stage.

Rival playhouses are desperate for new material and Richard is offered a fortune and steady employment as an actor to steal a copy of William's latest play for them. Though tempted, and not on good terms with his brother, Richard refuses. When the manuscript is stolen anyway, he's determined to get it back - a perilous endeavor. When he's in dire straits, he has help though, from a new romantic interest (lady's maid Silvia, whom he's determined to marry) and from an unexpected source.

If you enjoy Shakespeare's immortal words (especially in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet) and you're a fan of historicals, then you don't want to miss this tale of the Lord Chamberlain's players who 'turn dreams into truth.' It's an engrossing, fascinating tale and the Historical Note at the end speaks to its substance.

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