The Bard struggles with madness and monsters in this risqué literary burlesque from paranormal romanticist Handeland (Apocalypse Happens, 2009, etc.).
As one of his famous creations might note, the William Shakespeare who creeps through this book is well-armed with “[t]houghts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time agreeing.” Indeed, Hamlet’s inner demons are no match for Will’s as he struggles with vampirism. The novel opens in 1592 in London’s Southwark neighborhood. Shakespeare walks through the shadows, only to get his throat sliced from ear to ear by young Katherine, an amateur chasseur (French for “hunter”) trained by her Haitian nanny to stalk and kill the undead. But Shakespeare is hardier than he seems and soon thrusts himself upon the boy he believes Katherine to be. (Academics across the world just punched the air in triumph.) It turns out that Shakespeare has quite the long history, which leads to some laugh-out-loud moments. Immediately after kissing his newly discovered “Dark Lady,” Will muses, “The last time he’d felt like this about a woman, he’d lost her. First to Caesar, then to Antony, then to an asp.” For the most part, the book is shameless fun, with a decent grounding in the Bard’s work—the denouement echoes Romeo & Juliet—and a crisp, humorous bite. It’s when Handeland indulges her romance background that the novel suffers: “He would lick that skin; he would let the heat of her wash over him, then bask in that heat like a cat in the morning rays of the sun.” Ouch.
Christopher Moore does much better work with both vampires and Shakespeare, but this bawdy send-up should slake the thirst of mash-up lovers a little longer.