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License to Quill

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  261 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Shakespeare as you've never seen him before…a secret agent. Caught up in a world of corruption, secrets, staged deaths, and playwriting, Will must use but not abuse his license to quill.

License to Quill is a page-turning James Bond-esque spy thriller starring William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe during history's real life Gunpowder Plot. The story follows the fascin
Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 15th 2015 by St. Martin's Griffin
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3.81  · 
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 ·  261 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Allen Adams
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing

It has long been speculated that there was much about William Shakespeare that we simply don’t know. The keeping of records in his time was fairly spotty, so there are some gaps that historians have basically filled in using research and educated guesswork.

Jacopo della Quercia has chosen rather a different path to fill in those gaps. His novel “License to Quill” posits that Shakespeare – along with poet and peer Christopher Marlowe – was in fact an underco
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The follow up to the brilliant The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy is another historical thriller with fantastical elements. Here, William Shakespeare is the protagonist who becomes unwillingly tangled in a conspiracy to throw the British government, meanwhile penning one of his greatest plays.

Sadly, I cannot say more about the story or plot, as so much of the fun of the novel are the many plot twists and the surprising historical figures who are integrated into the story. Oh, by
I was hooked from the start, but the best part was that I went in expecting it to be a bit ho-hum and instead was blasted away by the action-packed, thriller, James Bond-like adventure that included Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare and an 'alternative' imagining of history in which Shakespeare and Marlowe were a part of a conspiratorial plot with Marlowe dying multiple fake deaths and a Dark Lady femme fatale.

There were so many elements to enjoy in the story: the movement of the stor
Anais Chartschenko
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is AWESOME. Beginning with the title, clever wordplay shines throughout. Then the characters... We have William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Sir Francis Bacon set against political intrigue with romance and adventure on every page. Will is a spy in this novel, complete with a set of appropriately clever gear to get him out of fixes. There is a conspiracy of witches rising throughout Europe! Will is writing MacBeth!
My favourite character is Marlowe, hands down. There was a bi
Michelle Spencer
This book is for everyone who ever said, "You know what William Shakespeare needs more of? Explosions. Explosions and James Bond-esque action."

We had good old Will Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe serving as agents for the Ordnance Office - or "Double-O," thus making them Double-O operatives - thwarting the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot. We had Thomas Walsingham as an M-like spymaster. We had Francis Bacon providing our brave hero with all kinds of gadgets, a la Q. Even the horses were named afte
Bought this book today, after meeting the author during The Enchanted City. I spelled aloud my name to him when he signed the book. He laughed and said, "That's an odd way to spell it." I resisted the chance to reply with "And have you seen your name?". My aunt bought his other book, so we will be reading and swapping. They seem like good fun, and the author was so enthusiastic and personable, so hopefully they don't disappoint.
Matt Mitrovich
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Originally posted here:

2016 is the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and the SF&F community already has a lot of tie-in media ready to go. For example, there is Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu by Jonathan Green up on Kickstarter and Abaddon Books is publishing the new fantasy series, Monstrous Little Voices, featuring characters from Shakespeare’s works. An early entry into the Shakespeare celebrations, which I will no review for you today,
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
License to Quill by Jacopo della Quercia is one part William Shakespeare, one part James Bond in Her Majesty's Secret Service and all the rest of the parts complete and hilarious fun! Working for the spymaster and nobleman Thomas Walsingham, referred to as "W", the spy and playwright Christopher Marlowe must disappear and so fakes his own death. In his stead steps the young playwright, William Shakespeare. Publicly known as London's greatest writer, he is also its most accomplished spy. But afte ...more
Oct 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've been yearning to read something fresh and unpredictable and Jacopo della Quercia's book is every bit of that and more. This fanciful historical novel places William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe in the service of their country as masters of espionage.

The plot revolves around Shakespeare's commission to write "a Scottish play" and reimagines how he came to develop MacBeth. In this book, he was hired by Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators to write the play to foment unrest in the country
Angela Smith
This is Shakespeare, but not as you know him. If you have a sense of humour (and I think the title of the book gives it away that it's not to be taken too seriously) this is a fun as well as absorbing read.

Bond meets Shakespeare in a delicious irreverent marriage of the two mediums. There are clever gadgets, amusingly named horses as well as all the characters you might meet in a Bond story but with more historical faces.

The story is set in the time of James I and Guido Fawkes is busy plotting t
Matt Eldridge
Mar 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very engaging read, avoids being just "James Bond in King James era England" by having fully developed and engaging principal characters in Shakespeare, Marlowe and Bianca the Dark Lady and well written secondary characters such as Penny, Walsingham and the Dragoman.

The history is well researched and you almost wish the fictional accounts of history and this novel were genuinely based on long forgotten and covered up facts, ones hidden for centuries and the author played the role of a treasure
M.L. Rio
Dec 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
This book is a romp: James Bond meets Shakespeare meets the supernatural. Shakespeare's a spy, Francis Bacon is his disgruntled quartermaster, and Walsingham himself takes on the role of M/W. Della Quercia's story is fast, fun, and completely, totally ridiculous. Even so, he makes remarkable use of historical fact--he clearly knows his stuff, to the point where the book almost feels like a long inside joke aimed at other early modernists. Minor complaints include annoyingly florid speaker tags ( ...more
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I expect a book to be clever, and Jacopo della Quercia does just that. With figures like Shakespeare, whose name nowadays often still elicits a response such as "some popular dead guy, right?", the author creates a story of incredible wit and liveliness. It breathes not in the way we would say if we were to set it down next to an open window, but on itself. Just a bit of interest in history or reading -- or both, which would be fine as well -- makes License to Quill a story worth pursuing. It is ...more
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
This kind of novel can easily get too cute, winking a little too often at the reader with references. I felt that here in certain segments but on the whole it's restrained. The action was vibrant and in the end the book doesn't pull punches. A masterful genre bender.
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Brilliant alternate history, spies, Shakespeare, the Scottish play, Guy Fawkes.... What's not to love??
Ruth Feathers
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Action, intrigue, snappy dialogue & humor. Shakespeare as a secret agent. Fun & suspenseful from beginning to end. As usual, another great story from Mr. della Quercia. Huzzah!
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. A fun twist to the life of the master bard. Enjoyed every twist and turn.
Oct 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
interesting and enjoyable! more on
Paul Sugarman
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was a lot of fun. The basic premise is that Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe were there day's equivalent of James Bond with Francis Bacon as Q.
Amy's Inkwell
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shakespeare as a Stuart-era James Bond. Theatre, history and mystery intertwine in a tale certain to appeal to fans of the Bard and whimsy.
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Good, substantive, frothy intrigue and escapade
Jared Hansen
Mar 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
When you pick up a historical fiction comedy with the premise that William Shakespeare was secretly the original James Bond fighting literal witches the last issue you would expect is for it to take itself too seriously. But sadly Jacopo della Quercia is concerned with two lofty goals that have nothing to do with making a book funny, entertaining or engaging - giving emotional depth to this characters and giving historical credibility to this book.

The former he goes about in the superficial ways
This was so much fun!! When I saw this at the bookstore, I really couldn’t resist the title. I like my funny books to have brains, I’m a history nerd and a huge Shakespeare fan: if you are anything like me, you will love “License to Quill”! This quirky, irreverent, meticulously researched alternate history take us for a wild ride in London, 1604. A perfect setting for intrigue, really: with the Protestant and Catholic conflict, the insurrection attempt of the Gunpowder Plot, mysteriously short l ...more
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
See my other reviews at Never Enough Books

Remember, remember,
The fifth of November...

License to Quill is a page-turning James Bond-esque spy thriller starring William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe during history's real life Gunpowder Plot. The story follows the fascinating golden age of English espionage, the tumultuous cold war gripping post-Reformation Europe, the cloak-and-dagger politics of Shakespeare's England, and lastly, the mysterious origins of the Bard's most haunting play: Macb
Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: espionage, humor
Jacopo della Quercia has a knack for bringing history to life, whether in fact (His writing for or historical fiction (The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy). License to Quill is the latter.

Della Quercia does what many history and literature classes fail to do - create great characters out of the historical figures from Shakespeare's time and weave them into the events of the day. Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Sir Francis Bacon, Guy Fawkes and a cast of lesser known
Colleen ~ The Clever Girl from Gallifrey
I was looking forward to this book for a while, mainly because I am a huge Shakespeare fan. The idea of using famous writers such as Shakespeare and Marlowe and throwing them into a suspenseful crime/detective story seemed so brilliant to me. Then throw in Guy Fawkes and that sounds full blown awesome!

Overall I loved the story. It was interesting, exciting, creepy, and while being a fiction story it still stuck to a lot of historical moments and you find yourself learning a lot from the book. It
If you like James Bond thrillers, you might like this parody (or pastiche) Parts are silly. Parts are funny. Parts are various degrees of clever. Parts are gory. It's 1604. James VI of Scotland is settling onto the English throne as James I. England (and probably the other parts of the British Isles) are on the brink of anarchy, though she does not yet know it. William Shakespeare, premier dramatist and secret OO [Ordinance Office] spy, has a visitor. He calls himself John Johnson. Shakespeare k ...more
Nov 24, 2015 rated it liked it
This is hard to categorize. It started out as a hoot of a James Bond pastiche with all manner of Bondian tropes fitted into Shakespeare's world (his assigned horse is named Aston, replacing an earlier mount called Bentley). As it went along it seemed to become more historical complete with footnotes. Not being overly familiar with early Jacobian history I can't speak to the historical accuracy but the author sure had a long list of sources. The ending, however, became a little too far-out and fa ...more
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JACOPO DELLA QUERCIA is an award-winning educator, essayist, and novelist. His work has been featured on BBC America, Business Insider, CNN Money, Folger Magazine, The Huffington Post, Reader's Digest, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, Slate, and Princeton University's Electronic Bulletin of the Dante Society of America, among others.

As a writer, Jacopo strives to present otherwise obscure scholarly su