George V. Reilly

Review: Ink and Steel

Ink and Steel
Title: Ink and Steel
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Roc
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 441
Keywords: fantasy
Reading period: 20–25 July, 2009

The Prometheans are a secret society sworn to protect England and Elizabeth I. Kit Marley (Christo­pher Marlowe), playmaker, poet, and in­tel­li­gencer, has been killed by a dagger in the eye, at the behest of a rogue faction in the Prometheans. Another talented polemicist is required and Will Shake­speare is recruited. But Kit is not dead. He has been spirited to Faerie, where now he must serve their two queens. He becomes the lover of one, Morgan le Fay, and her son, Murchaud. Kit can return to the land of the living, but only briefly. Meanwhile, Will is drawn ever deeper into a web of intrigue.

Bear brings the Eliz­a­bethan era to life and builds plausible per­son­al­i­ties for two great dramatists about whom we know little. And it’s a rare pleasure to read a novel where the pro­tag­o­nist is a male bisexual. The complex plot is confusing at times and the Eliz­a­bethan dialog is betimes tiresome.

For a’ that, ‘tis well done.

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