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Ruled Britannia

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  1,700 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
The year is 1597. For nearly a decade, the island of Britain has been under the rule of King Philip in the name of Spain. With Queen Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower of London, the British have no one to unite them against the enemy who occupies their land.

No one, that is, except William Shakespeare, a playwright presented with the opportunity to pen his greatest work,
Paperback, 464 pages
Published May 2nd 2006 by Roc Trade (first published November 2002)
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Ben Aaronovitch
Jul 15, 2012 Ben Aaronovitch rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-f
The central conceit is brilliant and I can't fault the scholarship or the choice of protagonists but the prose is turgid and overwritten. The Guns of the South proves that Turtledove can write a fast paced novel while retaining the fruits of his research so I guess what he needs to find is a friendly neighbourhood editor.
Jim Smith
Oct 27, 2012 Jim Smith rated it really liked it
One thing I’ve noticed about Harry Turtledove is that his mind-blowingly brilliant ideas and concepts are often let down by clunky delivery and wooden dialogue. Not so in this case. However, my one real gripe does concern Turtledove’s attempt to weave Shakespearean style language into the book. The problem here is that he isn’t always consistent and that jars somewhat. With that proviso, this is an exciting and absorbing story and one full of indications that Turtledove has done his background r ...more
Sue Bursztynski
May 11, 2011 Sue Bursztynski rated it it was amazing
I've read and re-read this one and I'm re-reading yet again. To be honest, many of Harry Turtledove's alternative universe books confuse me, with the multiple viewpoints; this is one of a number that only have two viewpoints. In this case, the viewpoints are those of William Shakespeare, living in an England occupied by the Spanish when the Armada succeeded, and Lope de Vega, a playwright who was Spain's answer to Shakespeare, who, in this novel, is one of the occupying soldiers. Shakespeare has ...more
Apr 12, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing
For those who have ever thought about reading at least one alternate history novel, Harry Turtledove's Ruled Britannia is the one you should try. The premise of the novel is the successful invasion of England via the famed Spanish Armada by the Duke of Parma's army that places Queen Elizabeth in captive within the Tower of London and places Philip II's daughter Isabella on the throne along side her husband-cousin Albert. Almost 10 years later, celebrated English playwright Williams Shakespeare i ...more
Carol Storm
Aug 16, 2014 Carol Storm rated it liked it
Warning! If you read GUNS OF THE SOUTH by Harry Turtledove and thought it was a classic . . . don't imagine this book is going to be the same kind of story.

I have to admit that the premise was intriguing. What if Spain had conquered in England in 1588? And what if William Shakespeare had become a shadowy fighter in the underground, trying to drive out the Spanish by writing fiery patriotic plays in secret?

Unfortunately, there is almost NO military action in this book until fifty pages before the
Aug 19, 2016 Juanita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review: Ruled Britannia by Harry Turtledove.

Harry Turtledove writes books of Alternate History that are interesting and intriguing while he writes his side of, “What If”. This book is set in Shakespeare’s era and the author has written the language and style of this period and skillfully incorporates innumerable Shakespearean quotations into his writing, often with humorous intent. Instead of reading about the times, people, and politics Turtledove chooses to limit the scope of this book to the
Lisabet Sarai
Apr 28, 2012 Lisabet Sarai rated it it was ok
I was excited when I discovered this book at a library sale. Alternative history is a favorite genre of mine, and this fat, juicy-looking novel featured a promising premise. What if instead of England defeating the Spanish Armada, Spain was victorious? Mr. Turtledove sets his story in London nine years after Spanish soldiers have occupied Britain. Elizabeth I has been imprisoned in the Tower of London. Isabella, daughter of Philip the II of Spain, rules the country in her stead. Agents of the In ...more
Sep 30, 2014 Nick rated it really liked it
This is an alternate history novel where the Spanish Armada succeeded, picking up ten years after England's defeat with Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower of London and Phillip II on his deathbed. Don't let all that scare you off - you don't need to know much beyond the very basic jist of what the Spanish Armada was to enjoy this book, although I don't think it's a surprise to say that history nerds will get much more out of it. The other audience I'd recommend the book for is Shakespeare fans, a ...more
Dakota Rusk
Jun 19, 2014 Dakota Rusk rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite alternate histories. Its point of departure is the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588. In our universe, the smaller, more nimble English fleet (aided by some killer winds) pulverized the bloated, slow-moving Armada, and ushered in an era of English triumphalism. But in Silverberg's novel, which opens in 1597, it's the Spanish who won; and for the past decade, England has been ruled by Spain, its Protestant religion outlawed and Roman Catholicis ...more
Jul 08, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it
What if the Spanish Armada had conquered England? What if Shakespeare and his company had got pulled into a plot to incite the English populace with a play to rise up against their Spanish oppressors? What if the person who wrote about it filled the book with strong characters and vivid historical detail? The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is that it bogged down in the middle--the plot thickened but slowly and repetitively (warning: a little bawdy).
Jun 06, 2016 Xan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una estupenda novela sobre el teatro y su función en la sociedad inglesa isabelina, partiendo de la posibilidad de que la Felicísima Armada hubiese logrado desembarcar y conquistar Inglaterra. El encuentro entre Shakespeare y Lope de Vega permite imaginar la relación entre dos de los mejores dramaturgos de la historia. Y todo en una ambientación creible, con una trama que se desarrolla con suavidad hasta el desnlace.
Jason Reeser
Aug 27, 2009 Jason Reeser rated it really liked it
This was a nice surprise. Having given up on Turtledove for his overly slow and both too-academic/too-cheesy plot lines and dialogue, I was happy to find something that was both creative and exciting. But I love Shakespeare, so that might have helped. This was a truly good read.
Feb 02, 2011 Cass rated it really liked it
The premise of Harry Turtledove's alternate history tale, Ruled Britannia, is that the Spanish Armada did manage to take over England in 1588. Philip II installs his daughter Isabella and her consort Albert on the throne of England, imprisons Elizabeth in the Tower, and returns England to Catholicism. Ten years later, Philip is dying, Elizabeth is yet imprisoned, and while most of the populace complies with the will of their Spanish overlords, a current of discontent still runs beneath the surfa ...more
Bonnie Wilson
Nov 24, 2016 Bonnie Wilson rated it liked it
I liked this. It's entertaining, and Turtledove seems to have a lot of fun playing with imitating the language of the Elizabethans, and its playwrights - especially Shakespeare. Maybe just a bit too much fun - the plot seems to fall into a repetitive loop through a big chunk of the middle. The same point is made over and over in different scenarios.

Still, remained entertaining enough to enjoy throughout.
Jan 10, 2017 Cristina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
He llegado solo hasta la pagina treinta, me he esforzado en darle una oportunidad por si tenia un comienzo lento y desaparecia el tedio, he entendido que no se ponga bien a los españoles por ser una distopia de una britania conquistada, pero he llegado a un punto que no he podido mas. La gota que ha colmado el vaso, pagina 27, Shakespeare en supuesta opinion de Lope de Vega, habia tramado un argumento mucho mas complicado de lo que cualquier dramaturgo español podria haber imaginado..jajaja, ser ...more
Mar 19, 2011 Schmacko rated it liked it
This is a fun, long reimagining of history, giving Shakespeare a questionably central role. In Turtledove’s book, the Spanish Armada conquered the English (and the Dutch) to take over England, interrupting Elizabeth I’s reign (and locking her in the Tower of London). So, the English are under Spanish, Catholic and Crusader rule. Yuck, right? It’s especially difficult for Shakespeare as his plays still need to entertain and sell, but now he has to also worry about not raising the ire of the Inqui ...more
1597. The 16th century is drawing to a close, and with it -- seemingly -- England's fortunes. Nine years ago the vast Spanish armada triumphed in delivering its army to English shores, where grim veterans easily cast aside the hastily-drawn levies that met them on the beaches. Spain's daughter reigns as queen, while England's own languishes in Bell Tower. The Catholic church has been restored to power over Protestantism, and with such severity that the mention of the English Inquisition can caus ...more
Oct 04, 2010 Gunner1956 rated it it was ok
Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove.


I’m a great fan of Turtledove’s works of alternative history but I’m usually sceptical about his fantasy and sci-fi outpourings. Nonetheless, the man is the recognized king of alternate history and this is where his acknowledged strength lies. Therefore, I was a little confused and more than a little apprehensive as Guns of the South is part alternate history, part sci-fi and part fantasy – I normally distrust cross-genre books because authors have a tend
Bill Ward
Nov 28, 2009 Bill Ward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great story of Elizabethan England, in an alternate universe where the Armada was a success and the Spanish invaded and held England. In the book, England has suffered under Spanish rule for ten years, and the main character, William Shakespeare, gets wrapped up in plots and schemes on both sides of the issue. Another main character, Spanish Lieutenant Lope de Vega, gives us insight into the Spanish side of the story.

I've been a big fan of Harry Turtledove's alternative history books f
Mar 22, 2013 Sam rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed

For my own reference, my edition was 557 pages.

Any ways, this book is an odd ball, but in a good way. To be honest, I'm still very new to Turtledove's work, and a lot of his stuff has been meh to good, but never amazing to me. This book actually broke the threshold for me, as most of what I've read by him has been very hard sci-fi.

In Ruled Britannia, Shakespeare is a badass who you don't want to f*ck with. I loved that aspect of the book and on numerous occasions I found myself laughing out
Nov 09, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it
A facsinating read. I truly enjoy Mr. Turtledove's alternate histories, and this one did not disappoint.

The language got a little too intense sometimes (I found towards the end that I was actually replacing "thou" and "thee" with their modern-day counterparts), but the story itself was strong.

I'll admit, picking up this novel, I didn't have a whole lot of information on Shakespeare (beyond what I retained from school). That didn't much matter, though, because the Shakespeare that the reader is i
Apr 02, 2008 Srochat rated it really liked it
I confess it -- I'm a sucker for alternate history. And this one was especially fun.

"Ruled Britannia" takes place 10 years after the Spanish Armada defeated Queen Elizabeth's fleet and successfully invaded England. Now officially a Catholic country (with Spanish troops and Irish mercenaries in the street to keep it that way), the country is growing restive as two great figures near the end of their life ... King Philip of Spain and Lord Burghley, one of Elizabeth's former advisers. The book foll
Danielle Reily
Nov 05, 2012 Danielle Reily rated it really liked it
This book was a lot of fun. I really enjoy reading books about the Tudor monarchy and the time period surrounding it, it's really interesting to think about what might have happened.What if the Spanish Armada had overrun England and imprisoned Queen Elizabeth? If the Inquisition came to England and the Spanish and Irish troops controlled the English people? The book starts ten years after the Spanish have taken control. Most of the Engish people are outwardly submissive to the Spanish regime an ...more
Mar 18, 2015 Libby rated it it was amazing
When it comes to creating alternate history, Harry Turtledove is THE MAN! Nobody does it better, as he proves once again in this tale of England conquered by the Armada and lying uneasily under Spanish rule. Will Shakespeare, like his fellow Londoners, is just trying to make a living when he is asked by William Cecil to write a play. Writing plays is what Will does, but Cecil wants a particular play, a cunning piece of sedition, intended to incite rebellion against the Spanish, in favor of Eliza ...more
Aug 10, 2008 Tracy rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This really was a decent book. The plot kept moving at a decent pace so there was no more than maybe two or three slow spots of a few pages throughout the books. I *loved* the characterization of Shakespeare.

It falls short of 5 stars because of Turtledove's choice to have the English talk in, well...English. Real English...with thees and thous and such. The Spanish used modern dialect, but the English used Shakespearean English, which made for a very slow read. I don't need to fly through a boo
Jun 19, 2014 Dawn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, maybe 3.5 stars. Interesting premise and for the most part I think he did a fair job of extrapolating what kind of changes might occur should the Spanish Armada have won, not to mention using different characters than you usually see in historical pieces. And Strawberry was a very good take-off of Shakespeare's own Dogberry.

But the one thing that bugged me throughout was the relative freedom of (view spoiler). I can sort of see sparing Elizabeth
Jul 18, 2013 James rated it really liked it
A great read that works through literary and military history, altering it as per Turtledove's take on alternative history. Seeing Lope De Vega and Shakespeare interact is a culturally interesting alternative history in and of itself and providing the backdrop of the Spanish Armada being successful and Brittain being ruled by the Spanish provides a form of commentary on colonization and engagement from a warped point of view. The tension Turtledove builds as Shakespeare makes a choice between em ...more
Aug 18, 2008 Rachael rated it it was amazing
I am a fan of alternate history generally and Ruled Britannia is one of the best I've read of the genre. This stand-alone novel tells the story of an England conquered by the Spanish Armada and living under Spanish rule for a decade. The plot revolves around a conspiracy to incite the populace to revolt against the Spanish through a play secretly created by William Shakespeare. Author Harry Turtledove is the largely undisputed master of alternate history fiction and here he proves he still deser ...more
Jun 30, 2015 Philip rated it really liked it
Although marked as SF this book is not your traditional fare. Instead it gives us an alternate history rather than an alternate reality. In this case the Spanish Armada is successful and England is ruled by the Spanish and Elizabeth I is in the Tower. All is not lost though as William Shakespeare is drawn into a plot to overthrow the invaders and set England free whilst dicing with the Spanish overlords.

Much of the book revolves around the theater and various plays that have subtle name changes
Nov 14, 2008 Reid rated it liked it
This is an interesting retelling of history in which the Spanish Armada succeeds in conquering Britain. This is in the time of Shakespeare, and he is the central character. There is sex, intrigue, plots, conspiracies, lots of drinking, and a fascinating look at what it might have been like to perform or see a play in Elizabethan times.

A meticulously researched book, this is also its downfall at times; the attention to detail and verisimilitude bogs the story down at some points, and the language
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Dr Harry Norman Turtledove is an American novelist, who has produced a sizeable number of works in several genres including alternate history, historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction.

Harry Turtledove attended UCLA, where he received a Ph.D. in Byzantine history in 1977.

Turtledove has been dubbed "The Master of Alternate History". Within this genre he is known both for creating original sce
More about Harry Turtledove...

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