Ill Met By Moonlight
by Sarah A. Hoyt
Ace, 2001, ISBN 0-441-00860-7
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
Who was Shakespeare's Dark Lady, and where did he get some of his most memorable lines? Hoyt tells a tale of a power struggle amongst the elves, in which young Will Shakespeare (he's just nineteen at this point) and his family get sideswiped.
Quicksilver, a young elf who is mostly male but sometimes female, is the rightful heir to the throne of the elvish kingdom, but he's been displaced by his elder brother. This seems reasonable, when we first meet them, because while the brother's arrogant, Quicksilver is entirely self-absorbed, unable to see beyond his own wants and his own "rights," without the slightest regard for duty, responsibility, or the feelings of others. Any ra tional set of noblemen would have preferred the arrogant Sylvanus to the wholly irresponsible Quicksilver--especially since they don't know that Sylvanus murdered his parents, Oberon and Titania.
Sylvanus had taken a human wife, and the wife has now died, leaving an infant daughter in need of a wetnurse. To fill this need, the king has kidnapped another human woman with a young daughter--Nan Shakespeare, and baby Susanna. He also intends that Nan will be his new wife, a plan that doesn't please Nan. When Quicksilver meets the worried Will Shakespeare, looking for his missing wife and child, the young elf has the beginnings of a plan to get his revenge on his brother and regain his rightful place in the elvish scheme of things. Quicksilver needs someone else to strike the fatal blow against his brother, because whoever strikes that blow will die. Impetuous young Will, eager to be a man in the support and protection of his young family, will be easily persuaded, and not know enough to ask the right questions. It's a neat scheme, which will cost him nothing; the human will die, but human lives are so short anyway, that doesn't matter. Quicksilver presents himself to Shakespeare as the Lady Silver, and promises to help him regain his family in exchange for his help in avenging "her" parents' deaths.
And, of course, things immediately stop being neat. Quicksilver, despite his extreme self-involvement, does have a few real friends, especially the lovely Ariel and her brother Pyrite, and Ariel in particular attempts t o give him good advice. Will Shakespeare is a genuinely decent young man, who wants to help the distressed Lady Silver even while keeping focussed on trying to get his wife back from the elf king. The more Quicksilver has to pay attention to other people in order to get them to play their assigned parts in his scheme, the more he starts to see a reflection of himself in their eyes, and it isn't pretty.
I think it's fair to say that Quicksilver gets the kicking around he deserves in this story., while other characters do the growing up that they need to do. Interestingly, the only false notes I found were the intrusions of Shakespeare's lines into the mouths of the elves at critical moments. It's a clever touch, I suppose, but I think in this case it was a little too clever for an otherwise delight book.