Shakespeare's Rebel

Shakespeare's Rebel

Book - 2013
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In 1599 London John Lawley, England's finest swordsmen, has a complicated life. All he wants to do is be left alone to win back the love of his wife and estranged son and to help his oldest friend, Will Shakespeare, finish his latest play but orders from Queen Elizabeth to fight for the crown in Ireland threaten to interfere with his plans.
Publisher: London : Orion Books, 2013.
ISBN: 9781409114895
Characteristics: 408 p. : map.


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DanniOcean Jul 20, 2013

reviewed in the Stratford Gazette July 2013


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DanniOcean Jul 20, 2013

The best swashbuckling tale-teller since Raphael Sabatini, C.C. Humphreys’ latest novel crosses a number of genres. Mystery, history, the political espionage of Elizabeth I’s court (long after her cousin Mary Stuart has been dispatched), and of course, swordplay. But the hero, John Lawley is not just a mercenary soldier-for-hire, his first love is the stage – specifically, setting fights for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, in the company of one William Shakespeare. We first meet our hero as he is coming out a hangover of epic proportions; a man given to legendary alcoholic tears whenever upset is not generally the heroic type, but Humphreys gives Lawley a few things to strive toward – the woman he has always loved, a son who shows promise for the stage, and most importantly, the will to avoid getting stuck within the political machinations of Queen Elizabeth, her soldier-lover Robert Deveraux, and her chief minister, Robert Cecil (grandson of one Lord Burleigh, if you’ve seen Mary Stuart at the Stratford Festival). No such luck, as Deveraux depends on him to keep his warrior spirit up when he is ordered to invade Ireland and bring back a traitor, Cecil wants him to spy on Deveraux, and Elizabeth, who comes to realize she is more closely connected to Lawley than either is comfortable with, wants Lawley to use his friendship with Shakespeare to persuade him to produce the most patriotic of plays during the tense final years of her reign. Easier done than said, as Lawley and the players find – the public tide has turned, they demand more of their theatre, and they might – just might – be ready for Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy of all, the play Lawley is afraid will ultimately consume his friend. Shakespeare’s Rebel is Humphreys best since his first, The French Executioner, but even fans of his Jack Absolute series will find subtle connections therein. A thoroughly researched, enjoyable and meaty summer read.

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