Monday, February 19, 2007

Nathan Fox: Dangerous Times - Lynn Brittney

Lynn Brittney's Nathan Fox: Dangerous Times is more or less a retelling of Shakespeare's Othello as a spy story.

In Elizabethan England, the Spymaster General, Sir Francis Walsingham, has formed an intelligence network to ensure that England's Queen remains safe from assassination. Walsingham is always on the lookout for new agents, and 13 year old boy actor, Nathan Fox, has just caught his eye. Nathan is a gifted young actor in the same company as actor and fledgling playwright, William Shakespeare. Nathan is of gypsy descent which makes him a skilled acrobat and horseman. He also picks up accents and languages very easily. The Spymaster General sends one of his top agents, John Pearce (a former actor himself), to recruit Nathan, who accepts with considerable delight and excitement. He leaves the theatre, but not before promising to keep Will Shakespeare fully informed of his adventures, and is taken to Master Robey's School of Defence to learn the skills that will keep him alive: dagger-throwing, sword-fighting, and street-fighting, as well as code-breaking. He sets off on his first assignment, partnering Pearce, and they travel to Venice to secure an alliance against the dreaded Spaniards. In Venice, Nathan and John, who are posing as servant and master, meet the great General Othello. However, their mission doesn't go quite as planned and the partners become embroiled in the events that surround the tragic love affair between General Othello and the young noblewoman, Desdemona.

I read Shakespeare's Othello a few years ago, so I knew how the main plot of this story was going to turn out. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not as it meant I wasn't reading the story with any expectation of it turning out to be anything other than a tragedy, from the point of view of Desdemona and Othello. I also knew in advance that this was the first book in a series, so I didn't fear for Nathan's survival at any point, even though he got into some life-and-death situations. For younger readers, though, this probably won't be an issue, and it will probably work well as an introduction to Shakespeare's play.

Nathan Fox: Dangerous Times has been shortlisted for the 2007 Waterstones Prize. There's a Nathan Fox website that's got some useful references for children who've been reading the story.

I received my copy of Nathan Fox: Dangerous Times from the author.

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