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Ink and Steel: A Novel of the Promethean Age Paperback – July 1, 2008

16 customer reviews
Book 3 of 4 in the Promethean Age Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Bear has done her homework for the setting of this delightful little piece of politicking that begins when Cristofer Marley, better known as Kit Marlowe, turns up stabbed through the eye and branded a traitor. Complications arise when he wakes up in Faerie and is pressed into the service of another queen. A group including Burbage and Oxford brings Will Shakespeare in to replace Marley, and while Will labors for Gloriana, Kit serves the Fae court. Both endeavor to live, love, and do their duty. There is a war to be fought with words both in and outside of the mortal realm. Bear takes a period that is famously a maze of intrigue and treachery, adds more of each to the mix, and comes up with a fine story that even a mere mortal may follow. Her take on the apparent inconsistencies in the lives of  Marlowe and Shakespeare is certainly no less far-fetched than some that purport to be scholarly. A damn fine reimagining of history and legend. --Regina Schroeder

About the Author

After spending six years in the Mojave desert, Elizabeth Bear attended the University of Connecticut, where she studied anthropology and English literature. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Promethean Age (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Roc (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451462092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451462091
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,698,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Emily Horner on August 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
Elizabeth Bear's Promethean Age books have this much in common: heartbreaking, intense, complicated personal relationships, and politics that go way over my head. My solution is to read for the personal relationships and shrug off the politics, though that won't work for everybody.

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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mark Shackelford on April 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
Ms. Bear's prose is utterly beautiful and suits this Faerie story perfectly. But - these are NOT the fairies of fairy tales, these are the strong-minded, wilful, and (when necessary) vicious, inhabitants of a parallel universe, where time flows at a different rate, but whose borders with our own (or in this case, Elizabethan) world are blurred.

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.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Leary on August 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
While Ink and Steel is part of the Promethean Age series, it's a great place to begin. I found it more accessible than either Blood and Iron or Whiskey and Water, the two earlier books in the series set in modern times.

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.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephen T. Wishnevsky on August 17, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bear is the best writer in SF&F, and regardless of what the litr'y Establishment thinks, Speculative Fiction is the most demanding of all genres.
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jvstin VINE VOICE on December 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
In her diptych, Blood and Iron and Whiskey and Water, Elizabeth Bear shows us the end of the story of the Promethean Age, when Faerie has been fighting a long war against technology, against Hell, and against those magicians, the Prometheans, who would still see it bound.

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.
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