From the acclaimed author of The Spy of Venice comes the latest in the tale of William Shakespeare like you have never seen him!!!
Benet Brandreth’s The Assassin of Verona is described as ‘a thrilling novel of conspiracy, intrigue and rapier-sharp wit‘ and tells the story of Shakespeare’s ‘lost years’. It was published in September 2017 by Zaffre (imprint of Bonnier Zaffre)
This is a book that entertains with swashbuckling wagers and feisty women, a very enjoyable read.
Please do read on for my thoughts….
All is not well in Venice.
Threatened daily by Papal assassins, William Shakespeare and his close friends Oldcastle and Hemminges are increasingly isolated – the lies that have protected them so far beginning to wear thin.
His companions want desperately to leave, but Will is tied to the city – his lover, the beautiful Isabella, is growing ever more sick. As tensions reach breaking point, their company is forced to split…
I have to begin this review with an admission. I read lots of books. I read lots of different genre, with a particular love for historical fiction. I am always fascinated by past lives and what it really would have been like to live in a particular era. Yet my knowledge of Shakespeare is extremely limited. I studied The Merchant of Venice and Hamlet in school and beyond that, I have to admit, I have never opened another play, biography or any book to do with this master of the English language.
This is where Benet Brandreth’s writing has won me over. I accept that many of the stories and characters are fictional, mere figments of the wonderful imagination of the author, but what a journey to be taken on.
The Assassin of Verona tells the tale of William Shakespeare in his years in espionage working as a spy for Queen Elizabeth. There is a papal plot to destroy the Queen and it is up to Shakespeare and his two travelling companions to bring the names of these Catholic spies to the attention of the crown.
As they attempt to make their way from Venice back to England their scent is picked up and they soon find themselves on the run from the notorious Father Thornhill, a man with little compassion, ‘a gaunt face, high cheekbones, pale eyes, and a wolfish look of judgement and dislike’. Not one to shy away from using any torturous methods available to get his way, Father Thornhill is not a person to be trifled with.
William Shakespeare finds love in Venice with the beautiful courtesan, Isabella Lisarro. Though he is married in England, Shakespeare is unable to help his burning passion for this woman, as is evident in all his thoughts and actions.
‘William sat upon a bench on the balcony with his feet upon the balustrade and looked not at the splendours of Venice but only at Isabella. She wore a simple dress and her feet were bare. Shorn of her splendid armour of jewels, gowns, artfully plied tresses, she looked as he imagined Venus would were she to grace a mortal life with her presence. Showing her wonders, by their simplicity, divine.’
As William struggles in his affair with Isabella, there is another lovers dilemma in Verona. Young Aemilia, is frustrated with her father, as he dismisses the love she feels for her cousin Valentine and intends on forcing her hand in marriage with a very mercenary Count. This man has money and land but he is a man with a dark heart and as his wife, Aemillia is only too aware of the hardships she will have to endure. Aemillia, unprepared to pledge herself to a life of servitude to such an ogre of a man, devises a plan to thwart her father’s wishes.
Eventually all paths must cross, as Benet Brandreth words weaves a dramatic tale. Filled with flamboyant characters, valorous acts and corrupt men of God. The Assassin of Verona is a treat of a read.
I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself among the words and thoughts of the Bard himself, as brought to us through the writings of Benet Brandreth.
‘There is a challenge for any writer setting his scene in a time when English was spoken, but not as it is today – how to honour that speech and give the book the feel of the time without it’s archaic nature getting in the way without creating a barrier to understanding’
The Assassin of Verona is a novel that is full of wit and charm. It’s quite clear that the author has a love for all things Shakespeare, with his enthusiasm for the subject evident in every word, every page. Yes there is a certain type of language used throughout, but it is written in a very accessible fashion, making this book a very engaging and appealing read for all.
The Assassin of Verona is a novel of pure escapism. So with that in mind grab your sword, throw off your cape – an exciting adventure awaits!!
Purchase Link ~ The Assassin of Verona
Benet Brandreth is a highly-regarded Intellectual Property barrister, rhetoric coach and authority on Shakespeare. Benet works regularly with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Donmar and others on Shakespeare’s use of language. He has also written and performed for radio and the stage. His one-man show, “The Brandreth Papers”, was a five-star reviewed sell-out at the Edinburgh Festival and on its London transfer – “Heroic storytelling” – The Sunday Telegraph. He is qualified as an instructor in the Filipino Martial Arts and as a stage combat choreographer. He lives in London with his wife and two sons and is exhausted from all his efforts at becoming a Renaissance Man.
Website ~ http://www.benetbrandreth.com/
Twitter ~ @benetbrandreth