, January 08, 2011
(view all comments by Jvstin)
William Shakespeare is free from Hell thanks to the love of their mutual lives, the now-Changeling Christopher Marlowe. Kit has lost much, including his name, and William's palsy is a slow death sentence, but both figures, in Faerie and on Earth, cannot rest on their laurels. Elizabeth is dying, and there are those who wish to use her death and the life of her successor to change not only the destiny of England, but the destiny of all realms.
For William Shakespeare and, even more so, Kit Marlowe is more powerful than he knows, and his untapped power, if harnessed properly, could be used to topple more than James I and the Mebd. Much, much more. The Nature of God itself is up for grabs, if that power is used properly...
The narrative of Hell and Earth is the second half of the "play" that begins in Ink and Steel and Elizabeth Bear wastes no time in plunging us back into her 16th century world. The shadowy plots and plans of the Prometheans who oppose Kit and Will slowly reveal themselves, and their plans are both monstrous and breathtaking indeed. Throw in an audacious and unapologetic attempt to coil in everything from the date of Elizabeth's death to the Guy Fawkes plot to the writing of the King James Bible, and I have found that Hell and Earth, along with Ink and Steel functions as much as a secret history as well as a historical fictional fantasy. In an afterword, Bear mentions that Shakespeare and Marlowe did this very same thing in their own plays, cutting history to suit a narrative end. She makes no apologies.
And so shouldn't the reader. Even beyond Faerie and Hell, Hell and Earth shows an Elizabethan England that is in a fictionalized past, and in this second volume, I started to really grok that in a way that I didn't really internalize in the first volume, Ink and Steel. Treat the books in the same way one might treat Henry V, and
The writing is crisp, vital, and has the ring of veracity. Well drawn characters that never feel like they are 21st century individuals wearing period garb, Bear populates her narrative with complex and conflicted people who are true to their life and times.
Again, though, don't start here. Start with Ink and Steel and immerse yourself in Bear's vision of 16th century England seen through two of its greatest playwrights, plus the nature of God, secret conspiracies,two Queens, Hell, and the Faerie realms.