Tag Archives: shakespeare

An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker

An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker. October 23, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 374 p. ISBN: 9780316327343.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

When Lady Katherine’s father is killed for being an illegally practicing Catholic, she discovers treason wasn’t the only secret he’s been hiding: he was also involved in a murder plot against the reigning Queen Elizabeth I. With nothing left to lose, Katherine disguises herself as a boy and travels to London to fulfill her father’s mission, and to take it one step further–kill the queen herself.

Katherine’s opportunity comes in the form of William Shakespeare’s newest play, which is to be performed in front of Her Majesty. But what she doesn’t know is that the play is not just a play–it’s a plot to root out insurrectionists and destroy the rebellion once and for all.

The mastermind behind this ruse is Toby Ellis, a young spy for the queen with secrets of his own. When Toby and Katherine are cast opposite each other as the play’s leads, they find themselves inexplicably drawn to one another. But the closer they grow, the more precarious their positions become. And soon they learn that star-crossed love, mistaken identity, and betrayal are far more dangerous off the stage than on.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Smoking, Alcohol, Homophobia

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. It’s Elizabethan England: practicing Catholicism can lead to execution, William Shakespeare is working on As You Like It, and Tobias Ellis spies for Queen Elizabeth herself. In Cornwall, Lady Katherine Arundell watches as her father is murdered for his faith, and she becomes entangled in a plot to assassinate the queen. When he catches wind of this plot, Toby sets a trap—Shakespeare’s new play, Twelfth Night, will be performed exclusively for Her Majesty—and Katherine walks right in. Disguised as a boy called Kit, she joins the troupe, playing opposite a watchful Toby. But Toby, bisexual in a time when same-sex relationships were dangerous, is beginning to fall for Kit, and Katherine has feelings for him as well, despite her guilt over lying to him about her true identity. Opening night approaches, and, one way or another, the truth will out. Boecker (The King Slayer, 2016) spins themes from Twelfth Night into her narrative, while neatly working ideas of gender and sexual identity into historical context. A romantic, swashbuckling adventure that will tempt Shakespeare buffs.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2018)
A spy for the queen and a vengeful Catholic intent on regicide bend genders and battle their lovesick hearts in Elizabethan England. When Katherine’s father (a Catholic and therefore heretic) is killed by order of Queen Elizabeth I, Katherine escapes and, assuming the male identity of Kit Alban, stage actor, vows to avenge his death. Toby is a royal spy, intercepting coded letters, unraveling secrets, and unveiling traitors (it was his skill that unearthed Katherine’s father’s plot to kill the queen). Besotted with power and Toby’s dreamy blue eyes, HRH enlists him to ensnare her would-be-assassin. His solution? Bait the zealot with a role in Twelfth Night, to be performed mere feet from the monarch. Kit and a team of co-conspiring Catholics bite, arming Kit with a dagger and little hope for escape. Enter stage right: unexpected attraction between Toby and Kit. The first-person, present-tense dual narration of Kit/Katherine and Toby shows their tandem turmoil of pretense: hiding true missions, veiling sexual identity and orientation (Toby is bisexual), simultaneously hoping to actualize and be unfettered from their mutual affection. Though the author’s note declares liberties in storytelling, the meticulous design and execution make it read as a scrumptious slice of history. The conflicts of religion, sexuality, class, and gender identity are apropos to contemporary times. Victor, Victoria and Shakespeare in Love: Meet your thrilling new sister. Or brother. (author’s note, maps, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 12-adult)

About the Author

Virginia Boecker is the author of The Witch Hunter series and An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason. A graduate of the University of Texas, she had a decade-long career in technology before quitting to become a full-time writer. When she isn’t writing, Virginia likes running, reading, traveling, and trying new things (most recently: learning to drive a boat). She has lived all over the world but currently resides in beautiful Lake Oswego, Oregon with her husband, children, a dog called George and a cat named Thomas.

Her website is www.virginiaboecker.com

Around the Web

An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason on Amazon

An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason on Barnes and Noble

An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason on Goodreads

An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason Publisher Page

The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters. March 8, 2016. Harry N. Abrams, 352 p. ISBN: 9781419719158.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 880.

A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes; Racist language and violence; Homophobic language and practices

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Hanalee Denney’s father has been haunting the crossroads of Elston, Oregon, right where Joe Adder ran him down in his Model T after a night out drinking. Now that Joe’s out of prison, Hanalee’s ready to get her revenge, but before she can fire the bullet home, Joe convinces her to take a closer look at her stepfather, Uncle Clyde, who married her mother quickly after her father’s death. If that plot sounds vaguely Shakespearian, you wouldn’t be wrong. Winters retells Hamlet in a grandly realized Prohibition-era Oregon setting, featuring biracial Hanalee in the title role, while the prejudices of the day simmer in the background. Compellingly, Winters doesn’t cleave faithfully to the Hamlet story. Instead, Hanalee discovers something far more rotten than a murderous uncle: the KKK are eager to rid Oregon of anyone who doesn’t conform to their ideals, and Hanalee, along with her parents and Joe Adder, is at the top of their list. Hanalee’s investigation of her father’s murder and her growing friendship with Joe are engrossing enough, but Winters amplifies the story by weaving Oregon’s troubling true history—state-sanctioned discrimination, eugenics, forced sterilization—throughout the tale, adding weighty, unsettling context to the slow-burning mystery. A powerful, gripping, and exceptionally well-executed glimpse into a little-known corner of U.S. history.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2016)
In 1923 small-town Oregon, Hanalee Denney has some friends, but she’s well aware of the prejudice surrounding her. After the death of her African American father, Hank Denney — apparently from injuries sustained when he was hit by a car driven by young Joe Adder — Hanalee’s white mother married Clyde Koning, the doctor who treated Hank after the accident. Convicted of the murder, Joe has been released from prison and returns to town an outcast, which brings Hanalee and Joe together even though she knows him as her father’s killer. When she begins to see Hank’s ghost, it leads her to suspect foul play. Was it in fact her new stepfather, not Joe, who killed her father? The more Hanalee investigates, the more she uncovers of her town’s shadowy underbelly, including a thriving local Ku Klux Klan chapter that targets not just Hanalee and other nonwhite people but also Joe, who is gay. As in her previous novels, Winters (In the Shadow of Blackbirds; The Cure for Dreaming, rev. 11/14) incorporates historical photos into the text, adding a documentary-like feel. While the influences from Shakespeare’s Hamlet are clear, the novel is not so attached to its inspiration that it fails to let its plot flow naturally. The unique setting and thorough research take the book beyond Racism 101: the KKK has it out for anyone who’s not “white, Protestant, American-born, or sexually normal in their eyes,” and readers might be surprised to learn of the Klan’s Rotary-like activities, which allowed it to keep its hate crimes hidden. This is genre-pushing historical fiction that will surprise and enlighten readers. sarah hannah gómez

About the Author

Cat Winters is an award-winning, critically acclaimed author of fiction that blends history with the supernatural. Her young adult works include In the Shadow of Blackbirds, The Cure for Dreaming, The Steep and Thorny Way, and the forthcoming Odd & True (Sept. 2017). Her adult novels are The Uninvited and Yesternight. She has been named a Morris Award finalist, a Bram Stoker Award nominee, and an Oregon Spirit Book Award winner, and her books have appeared on numerous state and “best of” lists.

Winters was born and raised in Southern California, just a short drive down the freeway from Disneyland, which may explain her love of haunted mansions, bygone eras, and fantasylands. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two kids.

Her website is www.catwinters.com.

Around the Web

The Steep and Thorny Way on Amazon

The Steep and Thorny Way on JLG

The Steep and Thorny Way on Goodreads