MERLIN'S SHAKESPEARE by Carol Anne Douglas

MERLIN'S SHAKESPEARE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A teenage girl travels back in time to solve a mystery involving William Shakespeare’s plays in Douglas’ (Lancelot and Guinevere, 2016, etc.) YA fantasy novel.

Fifteen-year-old Beth Owens is a talented American actor with a passion for the Bard, and she plans to play Puck in her summer camp’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, during rehearsal, everyone’s horrified when her fellow actor’s ears transform into donkey’s ears after she speaks her lines. Soon, a mysterious stranger in the audience tells Beth the magic words to return the actor's ears to normal. For the next play, her teacher, Portia Desdemona Capulet, suggests that Beth direct a performance of Macbeth. The night of the performance, the stranger returns and reveals that he’s the famed wizard Merlin. He says that he once assisted Shakespeare himself, and now he needs Beth’s help to locate the playwright’s lost play about King Arthur. Using an independent-study project as a cover story, Beth spends her days traveling back in time, following clues in Shakespeare’s works as she searches for the missing play. Along the way, she befriends Mercutio (a real person here, later made famous in Romeo and Juliet) and witnesses a battle featuring King Henry V of England. She soon discovers that King Richard III also wants to locate the play and that he’ll stop at nothing to do so. This latest novel from Douglas is an engaging literary fantasy bolstered by an appealing heroine and a lively premise. Beth is a dynamic protagonist, and the scenes in which she discovers she possesses magical powers are brief but effective, particularly in a scene in which an actor transforms into a tree during a performance of Macbeth. Douglas weaves connections between Shakespeare and the legend of King Arthur throughout the story and includes a provocative parallel between King Richard III and Mordred, the man who killed King Arthur. A couple of misspelled names prove distracting, though; actors Katharine Hepburn and Ian McKellen are referred to as “Katherine Hepburn” and “Ian MacKellen,” respectively.

An inventive adventure that may appeal to fans of Jasper Fforde’s work.

Page count: 360pp
Publisher: Hermione Books
Program: Kirkus Indie
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