From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up–This imaginative continuation of the story of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night focuses on some of the darker and more serious elements of the play and develops them into an original story. Violetta, the daughter of Viola and Orsino, is in exile from Illyria because Sebastian, her mother's brother, has conspired with neighboring Venice to overthrow her father and seize power. She has been protected by the fool Feste, and together the two go to England to recover a precious holy relic that is a national symbol for Illyria. There they meet William Shakespeare, who becomes embroiled with them in political and religious intrigue involving Malvolio, a Jesuit operative secretly arranging to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. Events reach a climax during a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream at a country manor in Stratford on Avon. The book is at its strongest when relating the doings of Shakespeare and other figures of the time, including Richard Burbage, Dr. Simon Forman, and Sir Robert Cecil. Rees's research is impeccable, and the details she includes about daily life and play performance in Elizabethan England are fascinating. The portions of the book set in Illyria do not seem as believable, and not just because of the fantasy and witchcraft elements. This would be an interesting read for a class studying Twelfth Night, as familiarity with the play would help readers understand some of this novel's plot elements.Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Conceived as both a sequel to and the inspiration for Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, this romantic drama brings Violetta, the teenaged daughter of the murdered Duke and Duchess of Illyria, to Elizabethan London in search of an important religious relic stolen by the wicked Malvolio. Accompanied and protected by the capable if moody Fool Feste, Violetta also enlists the middle-aged Shakespeare—sympathetically cast here as a hardworking artist lonely for his loving wife and family—in her quest. Shakespearean-style complications ensue, driven both by the entrance of Violetta's cousin, lifelong love, and possible betrayer, Stephano, and also the revelation that Malvolio is involved in a Catholic plot to assassinate the Queen. Expertly livening the proceedings with intrigues, japes, kisses, mildly bawdy comments (“the young are apt to be betrayed by their hearts, and other parts”), colorful characters, plot twists, quick violence, and an occasional breath of the supernatural, Rees dishes up a quick-paced tale that builds to a suspenseful climax. Just the ticket for fans of Lisa Klein's Lady Macbeth's Daughter (2009) and the plethora of similar Shakespearean sallies. Grades 8-11. --John Peters