MERCUTIO: O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Over men’s noses as they lie asleep…
So runs Mercutio’s monologue in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, a strange and excursive tribute to a shadowy figure known as Queen Mab. In this novel of that name, Kate Danley explores the legend of this dream-bearing denizen of the night, weaving a fantastical romance alongside the star-cross’d romance that travels the pages of Shakespeare’s famous play.
Cold-hearted Mab has gone to war with the goat-legged Faunus. With the goddess Juno on his side, Faunus has contrived it so that Mab is banished from all daylight hours, her beauty turned to terror for all that look upon her. But now, a hundred years after the speaking of that curse, Mab and Faunus have struck a deal. She is the protector of the house of Capulet, he the protector of the house of Montague. Whoever can bring the other’s protege crashing to the ground shall have the upper hand.
But in the midst of her scheming, Mab comes face to face with Mercutio, Romeo’s bosom friend, a man with a tortured soul that can only find its rest in the dreams she sends to ease him. And as Mab’s heart begins to thaw under Mercutio’s warmth, a dilemma that only kindness can conjure accosts her: now that Mab truly knows what love is, will she let young Juliet Capulet be trapped into a loveless marriage merely to ensure her own victory over Faunus?
This book is a tour de force. Capably blending her own dialogue with lines from the Bard himself, Kate Danley brings both Mab and Mercutio into vivid color, reading between the lines of one of the world’s great love stories to create a love story even more fantastical. Fans of Kate Danley’s earlier book, The Woodcutter, will not be disappointed, as long as they are enough of a Shakespeare enthusiast to delight over this recasting of an old story.