Feb. 13th, 2019

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It's 1613. After the disastrous fire which destroys the Globe Theatre, William Shakespeare returns to Stratford to a family who have become strangers. He must struggle to come to terms with his relationships with his wife and daughters, with his grief over the death of his son, Hamnet, some years ago. Written by Ben Elton and directed (and acted) by Kenneth Brannagh this is a contemplative study of Shakespeare's later life, exploring, alongside Shaespeare himself, his failings as a husband and a father and his attempt to mend relatiuonships.

It's beautifully acted by Brannagh who morphs into Shakespeare so well that the actor himself is unrecognisable. Kudos to Judi Dench as a very restrained and dignified Anne Hathaway. There's a cameo by Ian McKellen.

One of the stars is the filming location, Dorney Court, which has been in more movies than many actors. It's a grade I listed early Tudor manor house, dating from around 1440, located in the village of Dorney, Buckinghamshire. It's filmography includes: Sliding Doors, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Sense and Sensibility, Cranford, The 10th Kingdom, A Man for All Seasons and many, many more.

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I love Leigh Bardugo's books with a deep passion. I started with Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, and then went back to read the three Grisha books: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising. This book goes back to the Grisha setting, but takes place shortly after the events in the Crows duology. Nina, the Grisha heartrender, is the link between the two. There are two separate stories here. Nina, still in deep mourning for her lover, is in Fjerda as a spy for Ravka, committed to saving the Grisha who are persecuted. They are also being threatened by the highly addictive drug, Jurda Parem, which increases their powers, but with devastating results.

The main characters are Nikolai Lantsov, young King of Ravka, and Zoya Nazyalensky, his general. (She's a talented Grisha squaller with power over wind and water.) Ravka is a country deeply in debt and threatened from all sides. Nikolai is desperately trying to keep everything together, juggle religion and politics, and pioneer new innovations in technology which will give Ravka the edge over their enemies, however he has a problem; Nikolai has been cursed with dark magic (by the Darkling in the earlier Grisha books) There's a monster living inside him. If it gets loose at night it will rampage across the countryside. Nikolai is expected to marry for political and dynastic reasons, but how can he until the monster is ejected?

This is the first in a pair of books which explores politics and curses, as well as different aspects of love and loss. Zoya and Nikolai's combative relationship dynamics are excellent. I've seen some reviews that hate the ending, but I thought it wholly appropriate, and, besides, there's another book to come, yet, so though one book has finished, the story is not yet ended. I can't wait for the next instalment.

Highly recommended.

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