|Cover artist||Steve Stone|
Plot summary Edit
It is the year 1597, nine years after the point of departure, i.e. the triumphant voyage of the Spanish Armada. The Kingdom of England has been conquered and converted to Catholicism under the rule of Queen Isabella, daughter of King Philip II of Spain. Queen Elizabeth is imprisoned within the Tower of London as her fellow Protestants are burned as heretics by the English Inquisition. Scotland continues to be independent under the Protestant King James VI. Border clashes continued throughout this period.
The story is seen from the point of view of two famous playwrights: English poet William Shakespeare, and Spanish poet Lope de Vega, who is also a soldier; supporting characters include contemporaries Christopher Marlowe, Richard Burbage, and Will Kemp. The story unfolds over a period of about one year, as POV character Shakespeare is faced with the dangerous decision of whether to write and perform the play King Philip, a play supporting the Spanish presence, or Boudicca, a play invoking the memory of the ancient Iceni queen Boudicca and her ultimately futile campaign against the Roman occupation of her tribe's ancient homeland. The latter is designed to inspire audiences to oppose the Spaniards and support the restoration of Queen Elizabeth to the English throne. Meanwhile, Shakespeare must hide his double life from his friend Vega, the novel's other POV.
Shakespeare ultimately supports Elizabeth. He is later rewarded with knighthood and a number of other favors from his restored queen. Vega, a prisoner of war, is released and sent back to Spain when Shakespeare obtains parole for him.
The Play's the Thing Edit
The book makes several references to various plays by Shakespeare and other authors, both real and fictional. Some existing plays are given different titles, such as Prince of Denmark, If You Like It, and Love's Labours Won, and presumably slightly different content. As the author mentions at the end of the book, he created the plays Boudicca and King Philip from elements of Shakespeare's other works as well as works by Shakespeare's contemporaries.
- "We Haven't Got There Yet", William Shakespeare serves as the POV once again, in a short story of time-travel set (arguably) in OTL.
- Gunpowder Empire, the first volume of Turtledove's Crosstime Traffic Series. In chapter one, we learn there is an alternate where the Spanish Armada conquered England in 1588, and Spain rules an empire that borders Russia in 2095, suggesting that Spain was able to keep England down permanently.