History says that Christopher Marlowe, a playwright who influenced William Shakespeare, was stabbed to death while embroiled in legal trouble, over words that may or may not have been his. But what if that was an act? What if this was the 16th Century version of the witness protection program? William Shakespeare takes over for that influential bard, and finds himself mixed up in The Gunpowder Plot (a group tried to assassinate King James, the King of England, Scotland, and Ireland). Guy Fawkes commissions him to write a play about “the abuse of power” set in Scotland, to rile things up a bit.
License to Quill by Jacopo della Quercia takes you through an exciting historical mystery – one in which you expect Shakespeare to utter, “Shaken… not stirred.”
Did I mention that the new play requires the following lines?
“Double, double, toile and trouble;
Fire burne, and Cauldron bubble.”
So… his friend Marlowe had to fake his own death because of volatile writing, plus 16th Century Britain frowns upon anything having to do with witchcraft (even if it’s fiction), and old Willy is… definitely intrigued.
As should you be…
I was hooked from the very start. I’m familiar with Shakespeare, though his works are not ones I would snuggle up with on a rainy night with some tea (as many of the books I review here can attest), but I have read many either for college or to teach to my high school students. This makes for a very close read, resulting in a deeper understanding of the non-modern day soap opera that is a Shakespeare play. Teachers sometimes talk about an “author’s voice.” This author brings Shakespeare’s voice to life believably well.
Not only does Jacopa della Quercia weave Shakespeare’s words into his novel, he crafts a mystery surrounding the creation of Macbeth, one that is fraught with danger and intrigue at every turn. Each chapter, has a uniqueness and a peeling back of layers. Marlowe gets dragged out from “death” to join in the fricassee, which includes loony (yet useful) Leonardo da Vinci gadgets.
I highly recommend this novel. I enjoyed it so much, I am now going to read The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy by della Quercia, which has President Taft and Robert Todd Lincoln running around to solve a mystery. I love it!
I cannot even believe you are not already reading this book.
From St. Martin’s Griffin:
License to Quill is a page-turning James Bond-esque spy thriller starring William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe during history’s real life Gunpowder Plot. The story follows the fascinating golden age of English espionage, the tumultuous cold war gripping post-Reformation Europe, the cloak-and-dagger politics of Shakespeare’s England, and lastly, the mysterious origins of the Bard’s most haunting play: Macbeth. You won’t want to miss this fast-paced historical retelling!