Fools and Mortals

Customer Reviews

191 Ratings

Overall Ratings

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4 out of 5 stars
By Simon on 10-24-17

Not quite in love with this Shakespeare

Bernard Cornwell is pretty much at the pinnacle of my personal list of military history authors. His Sharpe, Starbuck Chronicles and Lost Kingdom series have been great sources of entertainment for me. This is a massive departure though and was possibly always going to happen given Cornwell's love of theatre and Shakespeare in particular.

Unlike some other recent examples of my favourite authors heading off on a tangent I genuinely enjoyed this. The viewpoint that Cornwell chooses is Richard who is William Shakespeare's younger, better looking but rather less fortunate brother. It's through his needy and almost desperate need to succeed as a player that Cornwell portrays the precarious nature of the life of a young player in Elizabethan England.

There is much detail about the theatre and its workings with the first performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream forming the core of the plot. Interwoven with this are a love story, a tale of rival actors including one Will Kemp and a plot of sabotage by a rival company to complete the drama.

So, I enjoyed it but I wouldn't give it absolutely top billing. The period has been very heavily covered and those who enjoy this style of book will likely not find too much that's new or better here. There's plenty of charm but it lacks a real x factor with a plot that's just a bit too mild mannered and predictable despite the odd snippet of violence. At times it felt slightly flat to me but it does gain momentum through the second half.

So, definitely a worthy effort but while he masterfully strides the battlefields of history Cornwell has a distance to go before he can claim to lord it over Elizabethan society.

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12 of 14 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By Lorna Morrison on 01-16-18

A real disappointment

Should have read the synopsis, just saw the authors name, and purchase!
The author has created a story around the production of a Mid Summer Nights Dream, and the life of a group of thespians.
The plot was contrived , the characters were un engaging , as a consequence the story died a slow and painful death.
The reader had a very irritating inflection in his delivery, I can best describe as if each sentence was an enquiry.
Best thing I can say about this experience is I have learned a lesson.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By annette apostolakis on 10-28-17

Refreshingly different!

Loved this from Cornwell. Such a brave shift from the conventional battlefield to the theatrical one! Such characters and characterisation from the narrator really give life to the world of the Elizabethan theatre. Absolute brilliance!

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 05-31-18

way off being good

this was like a very poor story weaved into a students report on a midsummer's night dream. with large parts of the book copied and pasted for bill Shakespeares homework. c- at best

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Louise on 06-22-18

very gripping

excellent story, well paced, wishing there was more, hopefully a sequel or series to follow

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3 out of 5 stars
By barjil on 06-05-18

Falls between two stools

As my headline says, this book falls between two stools: if you are interested in the plays, as opposed to Shakespeare's life, the book will give you nothing new and, indeed, becomes irritating with its description of plots and snatches of quotation. If you are not interested in Shakespeare I don't think the book will encourage you to plunge in and become an ardent fan. The bits about life in London are good, though.

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