…a normal twelve year old girl with a talent for writing, who has a very not
normal family secret. And when Lizzy’s father vanishes, that secret will change
her life in ways unimagined. (Spoiler Alert! It turns out that Lizzy, or
Elizabeth S. Speare, is the last living descendant of William Shakespeare.
Shhh! Don’t tell anybody!)
Then Lizzy and her best friend Sammy are kidnapped, awakening in the faraway
land of Manhattan. Their host is Jonathan Muse, whose job is to protect Lizzy
from becoming the latest victim in a family feud nearly five hundred years old.
Could that be why the mysterious, eye patch-wearing Dmitri Marlowe is after
her? (Spoiler Alert 2—he’s the last living descendant of Christopher Marlowe, a
friend and rival of Shakespeare’s. But keep it to yourself!) Is Marlowe after
Lizzy’s family fortune rumored to be kept in Shakespeare’s tomb? Does he seek
artistic immortality? Or Revenge (with a capital R) for a death long, long ago?
In a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, Lizzy and Sammy are thrust into the realm
of the mythical and fantastic—from satyrs and Cyclopses to Middle Eastern cab
drivers and Brooklyn hipsters—in what is truly “an improbable fiction” as the
Bard himself once wrote.
My thoughts: What a book. I wish I could just say, “The book is amazing.” and be done with it. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure I would like the book quite so much. One the one hand, the fact that the summary mentioned Shakespeare and Marlowe was enough to convince my literature student self that that was the book for me. On the other hand, the title is a bit cheesy-sounding and the cover made me wonder if it would turn out to be a little too teenagery for me. But it was great – very imaginative, funny and so very unique! It was… delicious… is it alright to call a book that?
I am not exactly a Shakespeare fanatic, mostly because it hasn’t been very long since I started reading him and I’m far from done. One fine day it suddenly occurred to me that I had never read any of his plays, so I went on a sort of ‘Bard(ing) spree’ when I read all my now-favourites. It must be very hard to have real authors as characters in your book (like Dickens in Pratchett’s Dodger) and Ally has done a wonderful job incorporating Shakespeare and all the secrecy surrounding him into her story. I would recommend this book to all middle grade readers / teenagers, if not anything else, it would certainly be a good, unlikely introduction to a great writer.
It is such a charming concept and the fast paced plot makes it all the more enjoyable! The book was bigger than most middle grade fiction I’ve read in a while and I do admit, there were parts that could be called unnecessary. The book could have been shortened, if that’s ideal for the intended readers, but somehow I still found it to be a quick, breezy read.
The characters are quite Harry Potter-esque (which, coming from me, is a huge compliment) – people you instantly identify yourself with, or better yet, characters who are bookish doppelgangers of people you know in real life! Lizzy is an endearingly spirited character, bold and funny, a little headstrong and very literary. Sammy is great too and Jonathan, well, he’s something else. I think it’s best to discover them all on your own and I suggest you go grab yourself a copy of this book right now, right here!
(Coming up soon: A featured post by Ally Malinenko about none other than the Bard himself.)