Review #3: Fools and Mortals

Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

384 pages

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In the heart of Elizabethan England, young Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William.

But when Richard’s onetime gratitude begins to sour, so does his family loyalty. Then a priceless manuscript goes missing and Richard falls under suspicion, forced into a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal through the darkest alleyways of the city…

In 16th century London, William Shakespeare is at the top of his fame writing plays for the richest people of the city, while his younger brother Richard is trying to make a name for himself as an actor. Richard works as a player for his brother but he has only ever been given women’s parts to play and as he grows older, his frustration grows too, making the relationship between the two men as rocky as can be.

When a new playhouse opens its doors, Richard is given the opportunity to steal his brother’s manuscripts, and is promised main roles if he can deliver. Will he choose to stay loyal to his brother or stab him in the back?

I picked up this book for two reasons. One, because I was sure that I had already read a book by Bernard Cornwell and liked it (it turned out that I was thinking of a completely different author, my bad) and secondly, because historical fiction is one of my favourite genres.

Unfortunately, I did not like this book as much as I thought I would. The plot falls a bit flat and the book is filled with play rehearsals. While it does transport you to 16th century London and the world of Shakespeare’s theatres and playhouses, I found that the play rehearsals go into too much detail and take too much of the book, not leaving much room for the main plot, which seems to be resolved quickly then shrugged aside.

However, it does tell a beautiful tale of how complex brotherly love and family loyalties can be, and in this way, it reminded me a lot of the rivalry but also the love between Oasis’ Gallagher brothers.

It is still a good book that could appeal to many (I mean, it is a bestseller after all), it just did not quite cut it for me. But if you are a fan of historical fiction, I guess you could give it a go and see what you think of it.

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