Bernard Cornwell’s Fools and Mortals is an interesting book that is a bit away from Cornwell’s style. I say a bit because he is known for war drama and Fools and Mortals deals nothing with war. But, it is heavy in drama with a dash of action.
The writing is excellent, as usual with Cornwell, with regard to character and plot development. The reader has the usual feelings for Cornwell’s heroines – likability with a dash of unsavoriness. In this case, it is Richard Shakespeare – brother to William. Richard is an actor in William’s company, but he is poor and resorts to thievery at times. He works hard to get bigger parts despite his brothers disdain for him.
The reader also has the usual feelings for the villains – disdain and hatred for their actions. There are many villains in this book – from Sir Godfrey, the churchman who preyed on young boys for their acting talents and their vulnerability, to Mister Price, a Puritan bent on ridding England of Catholics. The various villains do their best to thwart Richard.
The plot moves along fairly quickly until the end. It leads to climax where the villains are confronted and handled with a few twists along the way. One note on the plot, with a plot including Shakespeare, you have to expect a heavy influence of his plays. In Fools and Mortals, you will not be disappointed. However, I think Cornwell leans a little too much of the book’s text on dialogue from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The inclusion of the dialogue seemed to take up more of the book than deserved.
Although not one of his best, still a good read from Bernard Cornwell.