Will Shakespeare: Actor, Playwright, Vampire
Shakespeare Undead: A Book Review
Imagine a book that is part Harry Turtledove's Ruled Britannia, part Barbara Hambley's Those Who Hunt the Night, part Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and part Shakespeare in Love. That book is Lori Handeland's Shakespeare Undead, published by St. Martin's Griffin in 2010.
The back cover asks:
- Who was William Shakespeare?
- Who was the Dark Lady of the Sonnets?
- Why are the undead stalking the alleyways of London?
This is a horror/adventure novel, a tale of vampires, zombies, actors, playwrights, swordswomen, political intrigue, and Good Queen Bess herself.
Here Begin Spoilers
William Shakespeare is an actor, a playwright, a poet, and a vampire. Being both an actor and a genius, he's able to hide his condition as the "eccentricities" expected of artists, especially geniuses. Being a necromancer as well as a vampire, Shakespeare has an affinity to the dead, which lets him sense zombies ... of which there are far too many in Tudor London.
Dux Femina Facti
The book alternates between third-person omniscient chapters focusing on William Shakespeare, and first person narrator chapters focusing on Katherine Dymond, a chasseur. Chasseur is literally French for hunter, but in this context, it means a zombie hunter. The author's note states:
Who is the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets? Those works of exquisite beauty that portray tormented desire, temptation, betrayal, and eternal love for a woman with dark eyes, raven hair, dun skin -- and a husband. Many have theorized, but no one knows the truth. Until now....
Meet Kate, zombie hunter and Shakespeare's literary inspiration.
Zombies in Renaissance London
Will and Kate meet by chance... whilst she's killing a zombie. Why are there so many zombies in London? Who is plotting against Queen Elizabeth? Can a skilled swordswoman in an unhappy marriage trust a playwright who has too many secrets of his own?
I've said as much as I dare without giving too much of the plot away. I can say that the book is fun, especially the scenes where the reader sees something Willl will use in a future play... or in a very future story. (Some of Will's story ideas are from 20th century novels.) The queen herself is a character in the story, and beautifully, respectfully portrayed. I'm reminded of the incarnation of Good Queen Bess in Doctor Who.
There's apparently a sequel, Zombie Island, but neither the local library nor bookstore had it.
I rate Shakespeare Undead 8 out of 10 stars.