Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel by A. J. Hartley and David Hewson

When Hartley and Hewson offered their take on Macbeth, I was all over that, and I was completely enthralled by it. If you didn’t know Shakespeare, it was a great in-road to discover the work. If you did, their novel was just that much better because of it. To discover they’ve decided to tackle Hamlet? That’s no small feat, but so help me, they pulled it off admirably, and to the same effect. There are new layers and nuances to the story that Shakespeare gave us, and secondary characters are now every bit as fleshed out as the primary players. Renaissance Denmark comes to life, and subtlety is the name of the game for this version. As with Macbeth, the bard would definitely approve.

If I have anything negative at all to say about this, it’s the inevitable winking and nodding to Shakespeare that’s sprinkled throughout. As subtle as the story layers are, the callbacks to the bard are about as subtle as a runaway locomotive. And they aren’t that frequent, so it’s just a momentary jump out of the story to acknowledge the master before diving right back in. That’s literally the worst thing I can claim about this, which is no bad thing.

Richard Armitage’s narration is nothing less than incredible. His performance matches the storytelling in that it’s layers and subtle. Hamlet, for example, is capable of being mad one moment and lucid the next, and Armitage makes it work, seemingly without effort. All of his characters are handled with such respect.

I don’t know what Hartley and Hewson are pulling out of the bard’s repertoire next, but I’m eagerly awaiting it.

5 stars

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