The Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakespeare: A fun, diverting read from a solid author

The Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakespeare by Sophie MassonThe Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakespeare by Sophie Masson fantasy book reviewsThe Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakespeare by Sophie Masson

I’ve always enjoyed Sophie Masson‘s books; to put it simply, her stories are imaginative and her prose is elegant. The Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakespeare is no exception, (though it’s not one of my favourites of hers) inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Twelfth Night, and containing all that those titles imply: adventure, romance, mystery, magic, mistaken identity, and of course — a voyage that ends in a shipwreck upon the shores of an exotic island.

According to her author’s note, the name of the protagonist derives from her sister-in-law’s anecdote about teaching Shakespeare with texts published under the imprint Hopewell Shakespeare. Naturally one of her students assumed this was a relative of William Shakespeare, and after being reminded of this Masson ended up co-opting the name for her character.

Hopewell Shakespeare is a disappointment to his Puritan parents, being so caught up in his dreams of fortune and adventure, partly inspired by the plays of his distant relation William Shakespeare. After being harried in his work and disappointed in love, he decides to run away from his apprenticeship as a wheelwright and join a crew. As luck would have it, he bumps into a well-dressed gentleman who introduces himself as the legendary Captain Richard Wolfe of the Golden Dragon, and offers Hopewell a place upon his latest venture.

Though he is mysteriously disliked by the ship’s first mate, Hopewell quickly makes friends with the galley boy and realizes that there is a mystery brewing on board the Golden Dragon. Captain Wolfe is on a voyage to find the near-mythical Lost Island, a place ruled over by the Lord of Alchemists in which nothing is as it seems…

The Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakespeare is an enjoyable little book, filled with Shakespearean quotes and allusions, as well as a dollop of The Odyssey when it comes to the magical Lost Island. As a main character, Hopewell can be naïve to the point of annoying, remaining oblivious to things the reader can pick up on almost instantly, and continuously choosing to trust the wrong people. Likewise the plot is a little haphazard, with so many shifting goals and agendas and disguises that it’s a little hard to keep track of it all.

Like I said, The Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakespeare is not my favourite offering from Sophie Masson, and yet it’s never anything less than a fun read.

The Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakepeare — (2003) Young adult. Publisher: Hopewell Shakespeare, a young apprentice in London, is bored with his lot and besotted with the Globe, where his distant cousin, William, is already famous. William’s plays fuel Hopewell’s fantasies of love, glamour and fortune beyond the confines of London; he joins the crew of a notorious buccaneer, Captain Richard Wolfe whose ship the Golden Dragon is embarking on a search for the legendary Lost Island ruled by the Lord of Alchemists. But Hopewell is soon uneasy with the second mate Davy Jones and the waif-like ship’s boy Kit Sly, and is beset with strange visions of a beautiful woman and predictions of a White Ship. When the Golden Dragon – ever a pirate ship – pursues and is wrecked by just such a white ship, Hopewell seems to be the sole survivor, and is cast up on an idyllic island inhabited only by an elderly scholar Dr Prosper Bonaventure, a girl, Flora, and her goat, Caprice. This is a place of illusion and transformation, where doors open on to the places of one’s innermost dreams. But who from the wreck is truly lost, and who has survived? What is real and what is illusion? Who is evil and who is good? Who is boy and who is girl? And which is the true Lord of Alchemists who manipulates them all? As Hopewell struggles through the twists and turns of the enchanted world, the scales begin to fall from his eyes…

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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