October 2002

Joseph J. Finn

fiction

All Night Awake by Sarah A. Hoyt

I really didn't want to start this review. Hell, I've gotten out of writing it with readings of The Chosen, watching The Civil War, making pasta and even doing laundry. But, one must buckle down and get to work, and it becomes my sad duty to report on All Night Awake.

I really did want to like this book. Shakespeare and Marlowe dealing with actual representatives of Faerie? A great idea. The execution. Not....so good. The book has several problems that ultimately cripple it and really limit any enjoyment you might have in reading the whole novel.

To start with, one would expect that a novel of Faerie would have some interesting faeries in it. Sadly, Quicksilver/Silver (apparently, he/she slips between forms) and Ariel, the next generation down from Titania and Oberon, come across as far too human - they have none of the alienness that one would expect from another species entirely. They are sadly two-dimensional characters, either pining or moaning, with no real sense of character or action to them. Q/S slips around London in search of someone who's trying to upset the Natural Order (ah, yes, the End of the World plot), and Ariel spends half her time moping around the faerie hill and wondering when Q/S is going to do something about a plague among the faeries.

The plague has been caused by Q/S's deposed brother Sylvanus, who committed a crime against nature and has been exiled to be a hound of the Hunter. He manages to injure the Hunter and escape, fleeing to London to bring some great evil. Frankly, I never got that much of a handle on what the great evil was supposed to be, because Q/S spends so much time wandering around London that the great danger kind of slips everyone's mind in the middle of Marlowe and plots and Shakespeare.

Oh, of course, Shakespeare is in London, starving and ready to go home to Stratford after failing to make any sort of impression as a poet, running into Marlowe and making a last desperate stand. Really, I'm going to glaze over all this. There's some stuff about Kit Marlowe being suspected as an apostate, threatened by the secret service of Elizabeth I and trying to frame Shakespeare, but it's all disjointed and not really worth mentioning. There's some more stuff involving Sylvanus, Marlowe's death and Shakespeare using sympathetic magic to destroy Sylvanus and heal the Hunter, but it's really not that interesting. Frankly, I'd recommend you skip the novel...

But.

But.

But.

The novel does have one saving grace: the character of Kit Marlowe. Possibly the greatest poet of the English language [dead at the tragic age of 29] Kit Marlowe lives and breathes in the pages of All Night Awake with a vivacity that will leave you breathless. Hoyt makes Marlowe a fascinating and complex character, desperately trying to keep himself and his (bastard) son Imp alive and achieve some sort of happiness in the face of court conspiracies and suspicions. If Sarah Hoyt were to write a historical novel of the life of Marlowe, I would be first in line at the bookstore.

I've read worse novels. I've read better novels. I'm not going to recommend you run right out and pick this up in hardcover; rather, wait some months and pick it up in paperback. Skip the Shakespeare stuff - he's a flat and unappealing character. Skip the faeries - they're bland and dull. Read every word that Hoyt writes about Marlowe. He is the real joy of this novel, and Hoyt should sit down and write more of him, for all our benefit.

For a vastly better look at Shakespeare and the supernatural, pick up Neil Gaiman's Sandman (specifically, the three stories in the trade paperbacks "The Doll's House," "Dream Country," and "The Wake"). Now those are classic stories of Shakespeare and the world of Faerie, full of wonder and dread. And hey, if you haven't read Gaiman, you're missing the best.

"All Night Awake"
Sarah Hoyt
Ace
ISBN 04410096735