What a fun novel. It's got a ton going for it--it's tense, wickedly funny, relentless (once it gets its feet under it: one of the plot threads stumbles a bit at the outset, but it comes together at about the 200-page mark, and it's a pretty minor stumbling), it's ambitious, it has moral complexity, and it's utterly ruthless. It has a suitably over the top villain, and it's mostly quite, quite smart. All in all, a very good book.
Book 22: Sarah L. Thomson, The Secret of the Rose
Wow, I need to read more short novels. These YA books go by fast.
This is a really neat little book. Of course, I am predisposed to like it, because Master Marlowe is a major secondary character, and Tricky Tom Watson shows up a bit too, and it's all set in Elizabethan London. The plot follows a year in the life of an orphaned Catholic girl who, disguised as a boy, takes service with Kit Marlowe... in 1592. Ooops.
Really charming, and the thematic elements revolving around forgiveness and redemption and the odd sort of doublethink necessary to survive--and thrive--in a police state are really well handled. Thomson's Shakespeare is a bit nondescript, alas; I wonder if she was scared of him. (He's an intimidating guy to try to write--my experience was that he tended to efface himself as thoroughly from my prose as from his own poetry, and in the end I wound up trying to make that a feature. Kit, on the other hand, cheerfully absconds with any plotline he comes in contact with. Banzai!)