Friday, March 24, 2017

Historical Fiction Annotation

Ill Met By Moonlight by Sarah A. Hoyt


Ill Met By Moonlight is a story of Shakespeare -- but not any story you've ever heard before. William Shakespeare has just married Nan Hathaway (Anne Hathaway is referred to as Nan in this book) and is working as a school master. He walks back and forth to his work and returns home each evening. It's the picture of simple wedded bliss until one day he returns home to find his precious Nan and his daughter have been kidnapped. As the story progresses, you discover that his wife and daughter have been taken by Sylvanus, the son of Oberon and Titania, whom he has murdered to usurp their thrown. This power play cheats his brother, Quicksilver, (the rightful heir) out of his place on the throne. While searching for Nan and Susannah in the forest, Shakespeare thinks he's dreaming when he sees a transparent (yet also marble) castle in the forest. Quicksilver spies Shakespeare and identifies him as a Sunday child, a person who can see fairies. Quicksilver has the ability to change from male to female, and transforms himself into the "Dark Lady" and recruits Shakespeare to kill Sylvanus, since only a mortal can slay him. This is about as much as I can say and remain spoiler free. :)

Historical Fiction Characteristics

A great way to learn history without getting bored. Set before the author’s lifetime with the emphasis on historical fact.  While essentially a fantasy story, you do learn a great deal about Shakespeare's life, from his love for his wife, his life as a school master (apparently it was quite a long journey for him to make each day), his parents and their business, the mysterious Dark Lady that was supposed to be his muse, etc.

World-building: A wealth of historically accurate facts and descriptions frame the story - The story does have a wealth of descriptions that were historically accurate. The author even peppers in Elizabethan language in the story. It's not so much that it makes it intimidating in the way Shakespeare is, but just enough so that you feel immersed in the world.

Tone and mood vary greatly – a vital part of the RA interview with historical fiction is figuring out what mood the reader is looking for - The tone here is mystical and dramatic, but maintaining that lightheartedness of Shakespeare's comedies. There may be some action and high stakes, but definitely not anything quite like his tragedies.

Storyline can be focused on a geographic area, a person, a family, or an event -  This storyline is focused on Shakespeare, not so much Stratford-upon-Avon (although it is mentioned).

Story will teach the reader about the life of a historical figure, the everyday lives of a group of people, or background and little known information about a historic event - As mentioned above, while a fantasy, this focuses on Shakespeare and his life.

Characters should be accurately portrayed and consistent with their time period - I'm no Shakespeare expert, but I felt that this was authentic. The use of language from the Elizabethan era was a nice touch to really transport you there.

Often leisurely paced and LONG - Definitely leisurely paced, but this one wasn't that long. Only 278 pages.

Some writers use historically accurate language, words or dialect to convey time and place - Sorry to sound like a broken record, but yes, Elizabethan language was used. The language use was accessible, which was appreciated.

Epistolary forms are popular - Not epistolary, but worth noting that each chapter has a quick paragraph that sets the scene. In fact, chapters are not referred to as chapters, but rather scenes. This isn't a play, so that was a really cute touch.

Read alikes 

 All Night Awake by Sarah A. Hoyt - This is the sequel to Ill Met By Moonlight.

Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan - Set in Elizabethan era, invovles Queen Elizabeth I and faeries.
Ink and Steel by Elizabeth Bear - Set in Elizabethan era, Kit Marley is the central character and he is mentioned in Ill Met By Moonlight


  1. This sounds like a great book that incorporates a fictitious story and with historical elements that might appeal to non-history buffs. I never took an interest into Shakespeare's life outside of his plays. I am now motivated to learn more so I could understand the man behind the pen. I enjoyed you book recommendations and plan on placing a few on my "to read" list.

  2. I love stories involving the Fae, and since Shakespeare has brought them into more than one of his plays I can only imagine how he would handle them. Somehow it also makes complete sense that he would be able to see the Fae, after all this is Shakespeare. I'm curious about how he handles being the hero in another person's play! This sounds like an amazing read!

  3. Good job mentioning the crossover elements of fantasy. The annotation summary is amazing as well. Full points!