Master of alternate history, Harry Turtledove takes us on a what-if ride to a sixteenth century Spanish-occupied England. The Spanish armada successfully invaded England 10 years ago.

Now Queen Elizabeth languishes in the Tower while a Spanish-led English Inquisition flourishes.

William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe play the boards under strict Catholic censorship, as Spanish wannabe poet Lope de Vega spends his official time spying for the military. Will's superior skills garner him two commissions. Spanish leaders want him to write a play honoring the dying King Phillip II's life. The secret English resistance wants Will to pen a play that will foment rebellion. His greatest works are written and even he won't know which will play—until the performance is about to begin.

Using period vernacular immerses the reader in Mr. Turtledove's world, however the action is slow and unappealing. (Nov., 464 pp., $24.95)
Reviewed by: 
Kelly Rae Cooper