Sunday, September 2, 2012

Falstaff’s Big Gamble Review by Hank Quense

In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Falstaff’s Big Gamble brings together three of Shakespeare’s characters, Hamlet and Othello from the plays of the same and Falstaff from Henry IV and Henry V. The characters are thrown into a fantasy world. The stories of the characters in this book are different to the original plays, and you don’t have to know them to enjoy this book.

Hamlet is a dwarf and prince of a small realm called Denmarko, his father is recently deceased and the kingdom is now ruled my Hamlets uncle and mother. Hamlet is happy with this; as he would much rather work as a bee-keeper than a king. Hamlet is visited by a ghost (not his fathers because he is too busy in the after-life) and told his father was murdered and he must be avenged.
Othello, a Dark Elf has just been assigned as Minister of Homeland Security of Dun Hythe a large city. He soon discovers that the city has major problems, the city walls have fallen down, and there is only a small untrained militia that could be called upon to defend the city if needed. Piracy is rampant and threatening to disrupt merchants coming to the city and they are the chief source of income. Even worse, the internal security is a mess and crime is on the up, mainly due to dwarf warriors that have flooded into the city due to a nationwide peace. Finally the traffic police known of the Troll Patrol have a bad attitude, perform badly and only make traffic worse. Othello’s life gets harder after meeting his new wife’s grandmother who is the Godmother of the cities crime syndicate, and he is faced with the decision of helping her or facing her wrath.
Falstaff enters Dun Hythe in search of his latest money making scheme/scam. He tricks Othello into finance him in an effort to stop pirates. Falstaff uses the money to turn to piracy himself.
The characters separate stories begin to entwine and war between the two nations looks likely.

The story and characters are excellent; while they are based on Shakespeare’s plays and have that feel about them they are very different and the author has breathed new life into them. The characters are especially strong and full of life; this applies to both the three main characters and the secondary characters. Emila, who is Othello’s sarcastic troll secretary, Nark her brother and Othello’s aide, and Poulet who is Falstaff’s faithful companion are the highlights of the secondary cast. One of my few criticisms of the characters is that Othello was too weak as almost every good idea comes from one of those helping him and he doesn’t come up with anything himself.

The three themes, Shakespeare, fantasy and crime are brought together well and it doesn’t feel tacked together.

There is a good amount of humour in this book, for the most part it brought a smile or a chuckle but there was a couple of laugh out laugh moments too. I was concerned over an early line, when Hamlet says “to bee or not to bee” when referring to bee-keeping, this line was way too cheesy for and seems like something you would hear in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but fortunately humour in the rest of the book is much funnier and better thought out.

There was a lack of action sequences compared to other fantasy books, but perhaps this is appropriate given its Shakespearian background.

Overall this was a good story with larger than life characters. The fantasy, crime and Shakespearian elements are brought together well, but you don’t need to be familiar with the plays to enjoy the book. The humour is good but mostly smiles and chuckles rather than rolling around laughing. This would be great for fans of fantasy that are looking for something a little different.

Thank you to Hank Quense for sending me a copy of this book and a huge thank you for signing it as well!

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