Paperback, 384 pages
Published: January 26, 2010
Literary Awards: Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Fiction (2011)
A Divinity scholar at Wittenberg University, Horatio prides himself on his capacity for rational debate. His life changes when he meets Hamlet, the flamboyantly beautiful Prince of Denmark.
Horatio, illegitimate and penniless, was raised by monks, but he grew up a skeptic. When offered admission to a university if he converts to Protestantism, he readily agrees since he “might just as well doubt one religion as another.”
A perpetual student and poet, he is commissioned by a baron to write a play, an endeavor that blossoms into a full-scale theatrical production. Horatio finds himself attracted to two very different people: Adriana, the baron’s plain but audacious wife, and Hamlet, the beautiful prince of Denmark. What follows is a complicated bisexual love triangle that keeps you guessing until the end.
This book is, in a sense, a prequel to Hamlet, one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays, offering an imaginative, playful proposition on how the play came to be written. Parts of Hamlet, along with snippets of Shakespeare’s other plays and sonnets, are pieced together in a colorful collage.
It is easy to see that Myrlin Hermes is inspired by The Bard — she writes eloquently and revels in wordplay. This novel also offers a labyrinthine plot — often comic and sometimes tragic — fitting for a homage to Shakespeare. And it’s often raunchy — also in the spirit of Shakespeare.
This is a unique novel that will be enjoyed by many readers, and it would make a fun Book Club pick. I definitely recommend it.