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Ink and Steel: A Novel of the Promethean Age Paperback – July 1, 2008
"A Criminal Magic" by Lee Kelly
THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly's new magical realism, crossover novel and casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties. Learn more
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About the Author
She's a second-generation Swede, a third-generation Ukrainian, and a third-generation Transylvanian, with some Irish, English, Scots, Cherokee, and German thrown in for leavening. Elizabeth Bear is her real name, but not all of it. Her dogs outweigh her, and she is much beset by her cats.
Bear was the recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2005. She has won two Hugo Awards for her short fiction, a Sturgeon Award, and the Locus Award for Best First Novel. She is the author of the acclaimed Eternal Sky series, the Edda of Burdens series, and coauthor (with Sarah Monette) of the Iskryne series. Bear lives in Brookfield, Massachusetts.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book focuses on Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, and on the Elizabethan reign, which is being subtly supported both by the magic in plays and verse and by the faerie realm. Marlowe, in the world of faerie, is drawn into a tangle of politics and relationships; Shakespeare, meanwhile, is called upon to support Elizabeth's reign with his plays and in other ways.
The book's great strength is in how Marlowe and Shakespeare feel completely like real people, complex and multi-dimensional and sympathetic but flawed. I have the urge to give Marlowe a hug and some hot chocolate, not that it would help! Bear also knows how to write sex scenes that are intimate and revealing but not mechanical, which sex scenes in books hardly ever are, and this is perhaps her best book yet in that regard.
The adventures of Christopher (Kit) Marlowe (tragically, but not permanently, dead), along with a certain Mr. Shakespeare, and a cast of dubious supporting characters, faeries, goblins, lunatics, queens (real and faerie), lords, ladies and assorted low-life, are an absolute treat.
You could read the books just for the elegant poetic prose, which envelops you and the story with a style that is perfect - and then, almost as a bonus, you have this well plotted, intriguing, and surprising tale.
Highly recommended for anyone who has enjoyed Mary Gentle's alternate worlds of Ash, or the harder works of Ursula Le Guin, as well as the wonderful world of Neal Stephenson's baroque trilogy.
The Prometheans are magicians, politicians, and spies working to influence the course of England's history. Christopher Marlowe -- aka Kit Marley -- writes magic-infused plays under the direction of Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth's spymaster. However, the Prometheans are splintering into factions, and one of them has decided that Kit is a liability.
Kit's ignominious death leaves the Prometheans without their playwright. The young actor Richard Burbage suggests they recruit Kit's friend and roommate, Will Shakespeare.
Meanwhile, Kit awakens in Faerie under the care of Morgan le Fey and learns that his service is to be transferred from Elizabeth to her sister queen, the Mebd. He will live forever in the Faerie court, able to return to the iron world for only a few days at a time. And return he must, because Will is in way, way over his head. Together, Will and Kit are going to have to navigate the undercurrents of both queens' courts to learn who's working to thwart the Prometheans from within -- who is, in other words, trying to bring down Elizabeth, and by extension the Mebd.
English lit geeks: get thee to the bookstore! You are in for a rare treat. Bear lovingly brings Elizabeth's court to life, weaving fact and fiction into a wide-flung net of Promethean conspiracies: plagues, murders, illicit affairs, secret letters written in lemon juice and passed through Faerie mirrors.Read more ›
No Literary writer, one suspects, would have the nerve, the chops or the soul to write a book that is a love story between Marlow and Shakespeare, much less throw Morgan le Fey and her son into the brew, but that is just one of the major themes Bear mixes into this wonderful book. Wonderful means "full of wonders."
But to me, the best part is the reality, effortlessly created (or so it seems) that can bring Will's wife Annie to life as a breathing character whose motivations and obligations ring true to life. All the other characters are equally vivid and real.
And the speech in the mouths of these people also is fluid and true and emotive. Mark Twain studied for years to recreate Elizabethean dialogue. For my money, Bear does it better.
Pretty good company, don't you know.
And the real reason that the Establishment ignores SF&F? They probably can't stand the comparison. Bear and her peers are creating a Golden Age of literature.
In the second volume of that series, when Christopher Marlowe, part of Lucifer's household, appears, he blazes across the page in such a way that I knew, then, that Bear had to write more of his story, and how he had gotten to be in Lucifer's household in the first place.
In Ink and Steel, the first of another diptych, Elizabeth Bear takes us back to the days when Christopher Marlowe is still alive (although not for long), and just as importantly, the early days of the career of one William Shakespeare, whose poetry and pose is as potent an armament as any Elf-knight's sword. For such poetry and pose are strong magic, magic that can be used for good, or for ill...
Shakespeare and his world is a popular choice for fantasy and SF authors. Ruled Britannia has him writing plays for a Spanish-installed Monarch. Sarah Hoyt's trilogy has Shakeapeare tangle with the land of Faerie. Neil Gaiman had Shakespeare meet one of the Endless. Poul Anderson's Midsummer's Tempest is a fine novel where Shakespeare's plays are fact. Bear is in good company here.
With chapters arranged like acts and scenes of a play, with florid, lush descriptions and prose, and the subject matter of Shakespeare and Elizabethan England and Elizabethan Faerie, the book, at least this half, reads and feels like a prose version of one of William Shakespeare's plays.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The historical voice and research on this was amazing, and the adventures of the main characters were everything I've always wanted for them.Published 6 months ago by Genevieve Taylor
A blend of history and fantasy is what typifies Elizabeth Bear's body of work, as does her reliance on folklore and literary references to craft her tales. Read morePublished on July 4, 2013 by R. M. Fisher
Every Bear book is worth a read. Not as good as the previous Premethean Age book but getting past the fact this isn't a series with all the same characters will make it easier to... Read morePublished on May 29, 2013 by s
Outstanding! This first book in "The Stratford Man Duology" (coupled with the equally exquisite Hell and Earth: A Novel of the Promethean Age) envisions an extra-teeming... Read morePublished on August 18, 2010 by Lisa Jensen
I should have read a few sample pages before buying. This is some of the worst prose I have ever read. Read morePublished on August 12, 2010 by Melanctha
This was an amazing reading experience. I love Elizabeth Bear's writing, but to have her take on Shakespeare was like a dream come true. Read morePublished on January 31, 2010 by Sonoma Lass
The Elizabethan period is a popular setting for many historicals--whether alternate history/fantasy or not, but few can carry it off and make it seems as right and real as Bear,... Read morePublished on September 14, 2008 by April
lizabeth Bear's duology featuring an alternative version of the Shakespeare and Marlowe we know from history definitely one the best books I've read this year. Read morePublished on August 19, 2008 by S. Lee