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License to Quill

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  329 ratings  ·  82 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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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  329 ratings  ·  82 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
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
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
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
Apr 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Disappointing. The blurb was great, but the book didn't live up to its promise. I thought it sounded like a great combination between crime and history - a marriage made in heaven! - but it didn't seem to work, resulting, I think, in a fairly clunky work. I found the characters shallow and the situations unlikely. I'm quite happy to believe any number of impossible things before breakfast, but I'd prefer the writer to make the unlikely, likely! Sadly, this didn't happen for me. Great idea, thoug ...more
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. ...more
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Brilliant alternate history, spies, Shakespeare, the Scottish play, Guy Fawkes.... What's not to love?? ...more
Sep 01, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Dnf'd at 30% This alternate history genre mashup started out promisingly when I got an accurate description of Guy Fawkes, and the author remembered to give him a sense of humor. Things rapidly went down hill from there. Passive verbs, poor humor, and being ludicrous in a way that hasn't swung back to so bad it's funny turned an enjoyable read into a painful one. I just can't take the writing anymore. Espionage thriller should work for the Gunpowder Plot, but this reads more like an Assassin's C ...more
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, is
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
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
Jan 05, 2016 rated it liked it
I had a really hard time getting into this book. I started and stopped a couple of times. Not only did it jump back and forth in time, but in many instances information about characters or situations was just referred to, or hinted at. This left me feeling as though I was missing something, did not have important information, or should know something that I did not as I was reading the book. This kept me from really getting into the book. The idea was fun, and the attempts to turn well known peo ...more
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 25, 2016 rated it liked it
I loved the idea behind this story and the writing was humorous and enjoyable, but the extent of the history behind the plot was unexpected. Ultimately the footnotes coupled with my lack of knowledge on this period of English history left me with more questions than answers. Didn't love it quite as much as I had hoped I would. ...more
May 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
The premise of this made it something I should have liked, but the execution fell short. The plot was chaotic, the female characters poorly drawn and used, and frankly the ending was just bad. I also found the occasional historical errors taking me out of the story (although a non-nerd might not notice this). I found myself mentally rewriting to make it a better story.
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. ...more
Jan Greer
Oct 13, 2016 rated it liked it
It would have been a good read, it could have been a good read if it wasn't for the constant bibliographic notes at the bottom of each page. I mean it's lovely that you have composed your story around some historical facts but save the bibliography for the back of the book! ...more
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!
Ruth Feathers
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Good, substantive, frothy intrigue and escapade
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.
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.
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. ...more
Oct 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
interesting and enjoyable! more on ...more
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
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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 s

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