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Publisher's Summary

A dramatic new departure for international best-selling author Bernard Cornwell, Fools and Mortals takes us into the heart of the Elizabethan era, long one of his favourite periods of British history.

Fools and Mortals follows the young Richard Shakespeare, an actor struggling to make his way in a company dominated by his estranged older brother, William. As the growth of theatre blooms, their rivalry - and that of the playhouses, playwrights and actors vying for acclaim and glory - propels a high-stakes story of conflict and betrayal.

Showcasing his renowned storyteller's skill, Bernard Cornwell has created an Elizabethan world incredibly rich in its portrayal: you walk the London streets, stand in the palaces and are on stage in the playhouses as he weaves a remarkable story in which performances, rivalries and ambition combine to form a tangled web of intrigue.

©2017 Bernard Cornwell (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

Praise for Bernard Cornwell: "Like Game of Thrones, but real." (The Observer)
"Blood, divided loyalties and thundering battles." (The Times)
"Strong narrative, vigorous action and striking characterisation, Cornwell remains king of the territory he has staked out as his own." (The Sunday Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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A Solid Performance

This is in true Cornwell fashion--without the swords or guns...A well-structured and well-told story. But then he always tells a good story. You always empathise with his characters and you will here as well. This will not disappoint if you are a Cornwell fan.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Simon
  • 10-24-17

Not quite in love with this Shakespeare

Bernard Cornwell is pretty much at the pinnacle of my personal list of military history authors. His Sharpe, Starbuck Chronicles and Lost Kingdom series have been great sources of entertainment for me. This is a massive departure though and was possibly always going to happen given Cornwell's love of theatre and Shakespeare in particular.

Unlike some other recent examples of my favourite authors heading off on a tangent I genuinely enjoyed this. The viewpoint that Cornwell chooses is Richard who is William Shakespeare's younger, better looking but rather less fortunate brother. It's through his needy and almost desperate need to succeed as a player that Cornwell portrays the precarious nature of the life of a young player in Elizabethan England.

There is much detail about the theatre and its workings with the first performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream forming the core of the plot. Interwoven with this are a love story, a tale of rival actors including one Will Kemp and a plot of sabotage by a rival company to complete the drama.

So, I enjoyed it but I wouldn't give it absolutely top billing. The period has been very heavily covered and those who enjoy this style of book will likely not find too much that's new or better here. There's plenty of charm but it lacks a real x factor with a plot that's just a bit too mild mannered and predictable despite the odd snippet of violence. At times it felt slightly flat to me but it does gain momentum through the second half.

So, definitely a worthy effort but while he masterfully strides the battlefields of history Cornwell has a distance to go before he can claim to lord it over Elizabethan society.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • annette apostolakis
  • 10-28-17

Refreshingly different!

Loved this from Cornwell. Such a brave shift from the conventional battlefield to the theatrical one! Such characters and characterisation from the narrator really give life to the world of the Elizabethan theatre. Absolute brilliance!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Lorna Morrison
  • 01-16-18

A real disappointment

Should have read the synopsis, just saw the authors name, and purchase!
The author has created a story around the production of a Mid Summer Nights Dream, and the life of a group of thespians.
The plot was contrived , the characters were un engaging , as a consequence the story died a slow and painful death.
The reader had a very irritating inflection in his delivery, I can best describe as if each sentence was an enquiry.
Best thing I can say about this experience is I have learned a lesson.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Tim
  • 01-26-18

Excellent!

I bought this book purely because it was Cornwell however the description did not inspire me. Once I began to listen it was a different matter. I loved it! Good story with great characters. Well recommended.

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  • Phil Sylvester-Thorne
  • 01-17-18

Different from usual Subject

Not his usual topic
But still an enjoyable listen
Would recommend if you like dramas in a historical setting

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  • C
  • 01-16-18

Bloody brilliant

The bloody brilliant says it all, the story characters and performances of a minor historical figure is great fun

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-12-18

Fools and Mortals

Enthralling. I loved the details of the period and the theatre. Query: it was Edmund the youngest brother who joined Will in London? Richard remained in Stratford, married locally and had 3 sons, - all of whom died young. Edmund’s tomb is in Southwark Cathedral.

But I enjoyed the fantastical journey

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  • Karen Davies
  • 01-06-18

A little disappointing

I am a keen fan of Bernard Cornwell but this was a little slow-paced for my liking. The extended retelling of Shakespeare’s plays was often too drawn out but the period detail was interesting and the hero likeable.

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  • Stitcher
  • 12-05-17

Surprised.

Why surprised? It's definitely different from the other books I've read by Bernard Cornwell.
The reader really brought this to life. I warmed to the story gradually but ended up being sorry when it ended. I liked the amount of historical detail included quite naturally as the story unfolded. Only a really skilful writer can pull this off.
I really enjoyed it.

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  • By Julie Middleton
  • 11-21-17

A Good Listen

I enjoyed this story very much and look forward to his next Elizabethan novel. 😊

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  • Katalin Town
  • 12-23-17

Disappointed

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

Not interested in this story from description I thought it would have a different tgeme

Would you be willing to try another one of Thomas Judd’s performances?

No

Any additional comments?

Would like to swap for another book as I don’t want to listen to it