Fools and Mortals: A Novel (Hardcover)
New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell makes a dramatic departure with this enthralling, action-packed standalone novel that tells the story of the first production of A Midsummer Night's Dream—as related by William Shakespeare’s estranged younger brother.
Lord, what fools these mortals be . . .
In the heart of Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft and a silver tongue. As William’s star rises, Richard’s onetime gratitude is souring and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty.
So when a priceless manuscript goes missing, suspicion falls upon Richard, forcing him onto a perilous path through a bawdy and frequently brutal London. Entangled in a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal which threatens not only his career and potential fortune, but also the lives of his fellow players, Richard has to call on all he has now learned from the brightest stages and the darkest alleyways of the city. To avoid the gallows, he must play the part of a lifetime . . . .
Showcasing the superb storytelling skill that has won Bernard Cornwell international renown, Fools and Mortals is a richly portrayed tour de force that brings to life a vivid world of intricate stagecraft, fierce competition, and consuming ambition.
“Cornwell is an enthusiastic amateur dramatist. His portrayal of the actors’ rivalries and superstitions is sharp and often funny. His combination of wit, adventure and deft characterization is a triumphant departure from his usual territory.”
“Marvelous…. Full of drama, both on- and offstage, and with numerous delightful, laugh-out-loud moments, this novel is an absolute joy. A must-have for anyone who loves the theater, this is easily the best book this reviewer has read this year.”
“Cornwell is superb with mood and setting, whether ugly—London’s ‘reek of sewage and smoke’—or elegant: ‘city churches mangled the air by striking eleven’.... A master craftsman at work: imaginative, intelligent, and just plain fun.”
“In this delightful departure from his popular military historicals, Cornwell (The Flame Bearer, 2016) conducts a boisterous behind-the-scenes romp through the often sordid world of the Elizabethan theater…. Cornwell displays his usual masterful attention to detail…. Sumptuously entertaining.”
“The atmosphere of the times and the world of the theatre are expertly conveyed, based as usual on thorough research. The master of historical fiction demonstrates exactly why he is so successful. Thoroughly enjoyable.”
“Impressively original…. Like William, Richard Shakespeare, his younger brother, is a historical figure about whom next to nothing is known, and Mr. Cornwell has fitted him out with a superb dramatic trajectory, from street urchin to acclaimed actor…. Cornwell fattens up this story with a splendor of period detail.”
“As skillful a blend of history and fiction as any novelist can achieve.... Anyone reading ‘Fools and Mortals’ will not see or read Shakespeare the same again.”
“Gripping, exciting, and engaging. It is another great read from the masterful author. . . . A Cornwell novel is always full of suspense, and this one is no different. Time after time the suspense is intense. It will have you on the edge of your seat.”
“For those who are looking for something akin to ‘Game of Thrones’ on HBO or in George R.R. Martin’s novels on which it is based, you can’t go wrong with Cornwell’s tales of Saxons in the years before Britain became England.”
“’Warriors’ may be the best in the ‘Saxon Tales’ series yet…. Cornwell’s informative stories are told with appealing imagination to reveal the complicated, lengthy history of England’s formation.”