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Ruled Britannia

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,940 ratings  ·  123 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. The citizenry live under an enforced curfew—and in fear of the Inquisition’s agents, who put heretics to the torch in public displays. And with Queen Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower of London, the British have no symbol to unite them against the enemy ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published May 2nd 2006 by Roc Trade (first published November 5th 2002)
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3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,940 ratings  ·  123 reviews

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Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not a big reader of alternate histories, but they can be very entertaining. That being said, I will never understand why they are filed under science fiction. There is no science behind the conceit. It is just a "what if" novel.

There, I've had my piece. This was an excellent historical fiction. I especially liked the look at both sides, the Spanish and the English points of view. The philandering Spaniard who wanted to be a poet and playwright, rather than a soldier was a particularly appeal
Ben Aaronovitch
Jul 15, 2012 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.
Jun 08, 2012 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
Sue Bursztynski
May 11, 2011 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
Carol Storm
Jun 30, 2014 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
Jim Smith
Oct 27, 2012 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
First sentence: Two Spanish soldiers swaggered up Tower Street toward William Shakespeare. Their boots squelched in the mud. One wore a rusty corselet with his high-crowned morion, the other a similar helmet with a jacket of quilted cotton. Rapiers swung at their hips.

Premise/plot: What if the English navy had not defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588? What if instead of Queen Elizabeth reigning in the year 1597 she was instead locked away in the Tower? Turtledove gives us alternate history in hi
Story: 10 (could perhaps use some pruning but enormously fun)
Characters: 10 (a charming cast of honest men and reprobates)
Accuracy: 9 (I mean, it didn’t happen, but the period details are solid and the changes plausible)

Does the idea of seeing William Shakespeare as a rebel agent appeal to you? If so, this is the book for you: an alternate history novel set in a world where the Spanish Armada was a success and Spain has occupied England for a decade. Shakespeare’s life took much the same course
Lisabet Sarai
Apr 24, 2012 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
Aug 03, 2010 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
May 30, 2016 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
Sep 30, 2014 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 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
Jun 20, 2008 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).
May 21, 2016 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.
Bonnie Wilson
Nov 24, 2016 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.
Jason Reeser
Aug 27, 2009 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.
Matthew Kresal
In 1588, Britain faced the threat of invasion by the Spanish Armada, sent by Catholic King Phillip II against the Protestant Elizabeth I. History records that the Armada failed of course and Britain went more than two centuries before facing the threat of invasion once more. Yet what if the Armada had succeeded and the nation had been occupied by the forces of the Catholic Spanish? Harry Turtledove, proclaimed as the master of the alternate history genre, imagined just such a scenario with his 2 ...more
Reza Amiri Praramadhan
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Unlike what happened in our time, in 1588 of this book, The Armada of King Philip II succeeded in invading Britain and overthrown Queen Elizabeth, the heretic. Being a magnanimous king that he was, Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Fast forward 10 years and Britain was well under the rule of Queen Isabella and King Albert (Duchess and Duke of Habsburg Netherlands in our time) and Philip was slowly dying. In this book, we follow two viewpoint characters, one was William Shakespeare ...more
Aug 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really struggled with Ruled Britannia at first. The style of it being told from two different points of view, might have been the issue, however I'm not sure. The style of the writing with old English terms and ways of saying things took a little getting used to, but it wasn't that hard to understand. When someone made I leg I didn't suddenly think they were in the spare body parts business. When I got over half way I suddenly flew through it. I have no idea what changed, but it was suddenly v ...more
Pat MacEwen
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
What if the Spanish Armada did make it to England, and won? That's the premise of this alternate history tale about life in London ten years later. The plot centers on a plot, one organized by the aging Lord Burghley and his son, Robert Cecil, involving William Shakespeare and his troupe of players. The tale is told from two points of view: Shakespeare himself and a Spanish playwright/occupation officer named Lt. Lope de Vega, who was actually part of the Spanish Armada and one of the lucky few ...more
Brilliant! Superb 'what-if'. I would never dream of reading Shakespear but this author used extracts to perfection....tho I confess to skipping over most of the 'blank verse' poetic form (IMO if you can't say it in prose you have a problem with your language skills!!) The presentation of the historical environment was authentic as seemed the language of the day. The wit seemed to parallel the wit I recollect from school as being in Shakespear. The characters closely reflected history - with lite ...more
Maria Do
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-harder
Nos meus estudos de História, um dos meus períodos favoritos é a Idade Elizabetana, e Elizabeth I é uma das personagens históricas que mais admiro. Além disso, o teatro Elizabetano, com William Shakespeare e Christopher Marlowe, merece considerações à parte.

E se a Armada Espanhola tivesse ganho a guerra? E se Philip II tivesse dominado a Inglaterra, e imposto a religião católica de volta? É essa a premissa deste livro fascinante, cuja narrativa parte de dois personagens antagônicos e, ao mesmo
William Bentrim
Feb 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Ruled Britannia by Harry Turtledove
Never thought I would be bored with anything Turtledove wrote but alas, I found this book boring. The Spanish Armada was successful and England is now held by the Spanish. A rebellion formatted by William Shakespeare is the theme. Action didn’t ensue until the last 50 pages or so.
The story was interesting but for me it dragged until the end.
First Turtledove book I recall that I didn’t really like.
Jan 22, 2011 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
Matthew Anderson
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The storm that gave Britain the victory over the Spanish Armada... Well, that didn't happen. (And... Shakespeare's the hero!)
B.J. Sikes
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating premise and the dialogue is brilliant.
Bob Snyder
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Typical Turtledove all the same just different times
Chris S.
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought the book was good. I could learn to like anternate history that doesn't involve time travel.
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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