7 Jun 2015

Review - The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet by Myrlin A. Hermes

Title: The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet

Author: Myrlin A. Hermes

Rating: 4/5 stars


A Divinity scholar at Wittenberg University, Horatio prides himself on his ability to argue both sides of any intellectual debate but is himself a skeptic, never fully believing in any philosophy. That is, until he meets the outrageous, provocative, and flamboyantly beautiful Prince of Denmark, who teaches him more about both Earth and Heaven than any of his books. But Hamlet is also irrationally haunted by intimations of a tragic destiny he believes is preordained.

When a freelance translation job turns into a full-scale theatrical production, Horatio arranges for the theater-loving prince to act in the play-disguised as the heroine! This attracts the attention of Horatio′s patroness, the dark and manipulative Lady Adriana. A voracious and astute reader of both books and people, she performs her own seductions to test whether the "platonic true-love" described in his poems is truly so platonic. But when a mysterious rival poet calling himself "Will Shake-speare" begins to court both Prince Hamlet and his Dark Lady, Horatio is forced to choose between his skepticism and his love.

My thoughts:

The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet is quite an enjoyable prequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It deals with a love triangle including Horatio, Hamlet and a baroness, who is none other than Shakespeare’s Dark Lady. The story tangled, untangled and tangled again like Shakespeare’s own tales and all the while I didn’t mind being caught in the middle – and not because the plot was that engaging (it was on okay level for me), but because I liked coming across all those delicious Shakespeare references. They were well-placed; some hidden, some half-veiled, some laid bare for the naked eye and as a true Shakespeare geek I enjoyed the hunt for them.

I cannot say I liked Myrlin A. Hermes’ take on the characters – gosh, I totally hated Hamlet and could have throttled him sometimes –, but you know what? This book works regardless how differently the characters are written compared to the image you have of them inside your head. The writing and the Shakespearean setting drew me in and when I read about Gertrude’s thoughts on her husband and Claudius or Polonius’ past, I was grateful the writer took time to write this novel. 

Horatio was again anything like the Horatio of MY mind; sometimes I liked him and sometimes I found him awkward and naive. It was like the first half of the book was about him struggling to accept his own bisexuality (he always emphasised Hamlet’s androgyneousness, mostly his femininity), in the second half he kept finding excuses for Hamlet when he didn’t visit him for weeks (c’mon Horatio, he’s not worth it, get over him!) and in the end he accepted what he could get, but hey, Hamlet itself is a tragedy after all, so that was alright. 

The happenings in the original drama were visited through Hamlet’s dreams and fears, Shakespeare’s story about the Danish prince was put together piece by piece like a puzzle. I liked that the whole picture in the end wasn’t the one I expected to see.

Hamlet is not your favourite play from the Bard? Don’t worry, because you’ll find parts in this book that follow the patterns of Shakespearean comedies (cross-dressing, yay!). There are references to some of his other tragedies as well (e.g.: Romeo and Juliet, Othello), not to mention the sonnets from which quite a few lines are inserted and used in the novel. 

I’m not sure someone who hasn’t read Hamlet could take away as much from this book as someone who has. I’m not even sure it is possible to understand The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet without knowing Hamlet to some extent, therefore I only recommend this to those who are familiar with the play and are true admirer of Shakespeare.

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