Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Something Awesome

Sorry this post is a little later than I usually post - about a day late, if we're being optimistic - but I was on vacation so I guess it's lucky that I'm posting at all. If you want to know, the vacation was great. I went swimming, read a lot, and jumped off a cliff. No, I'm not kidding, why do you ask?

Anyway, some of the reading I did inspired this post. I read the second in the Horatio Wilkes mystery series by Alan Gratz. The first one in the series was called Something Rotten and is a modern, mystery version of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. The second one, the one I read while on vacation, is called Something Wicked. You guessed it - it's based on Macbeth. There's going to be more; according to Gratz's website he's planning another based on A Midsummer Night's Dream to be called Something Foolish, and there may be more after that. I've already talked about my love of retellings, so I want to do a basic review of this series and why I like it.

Gratz's books are YA mysteries, so you have a smart-mouthed teenager poking around where he's not welcome. I will say this up front, that his books are not the cleanest YA I've read, so if you don't like teens drinking alcohol or discussing sex, then this series is probably not for you. Any mystery novel would have those elements and it's not Shakespeare's work is all that pure either. But consider yourself warned.

Moving on. The cool thing about this series is that Gratz does a wonderful job of writing a story that stands on its own but is awesome if you know the play. The protagonist, Horatio Wilkes, is clever and snappy with dialogue. It's fun and exciting to read and the story unfolds like any other mystery. If I didn't know Hamlet and Macbeth as well as I do (it's kind of pathetic how well I know those two plays), I would still get caught up in the murder mystery and relate to the hero and other characters.

But the books are retellings, and for those who have read Shakespeare it is a gold mine of understated references and well-modernized scenes. For example, in Something Wicked the characters go to a psychic where the fatal prophecy is given to Mac and his girlfriend Beth (cute, huh?). They even have the porter scene when Horatio checks into a motel and has to bang on the door to make the manager let him in. There are so many other scenes that come right out of Shakespeare, as well as some wonderful dialogue that is modernized versions of famous lines from the plays.

For a Shakespeare fan looking for something new and exciting, I would definitely recommend the Horatio Wilkes series. I have to say, I'm looking forward to reading Gratz's next installment and any others that follow.

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