01 July 2021

Puck, plague and history

King Of Shadows

King Of Shadows by Susan Cooper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A surprisingly moving story about an orphan boy actor who is magically transported 400 years back from the 20th century to the original Globe theatre, where he performs in A Midsummer Night's Dream which he had been rehearsing for in his own time) and meets William Shakespeare himself.

This was the third book by Susan Cooper I'd read in the last couple of months, and I liked it a lot better than her The Dark is Rising. It invites comparison with another book I read not so long ago -- Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill -- see my review here.  

Both books feature Puck from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and in both books children are plucked out of their own time into the past and discover something of past history. But I think Susan Cooper tells a better story, and tells it better than Kipling. I think Kipling's Kim is far better than his Puck of Pook's Hill, and have read that several times, but Kim is a spy story and a Bildungsroman, not fantasy.

King of Shadows also features bubonic plague, and reminded me of another historical fantasy book that featured that, which seemed appropriate reading for our times of quarantine. For more on that, and other plague-time reading, see Physical distance and social proximity in a time of plague.

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