Review of By Any Other Name

By Any Other Name By Any Other Name
by Erin Cotter
Middle School, High School    Simon    464 pp.
10/23    9781665940719    $21.99
e-book ed.  9781665940733    $10.99

A fanciful treat set in the 1590s, Cotter’s debut novel takes us from London’s Rose Theatre to the court of Elizabeth I, onto the ship of famed pirate queen Gráinne Ní Mháille, and off to a trial at Dover Castle. Aptly, an excerpt of Elizabethan love poetry opens most sections of the story. Although this is a tale of traitors, murder, spying, poison, play-acting, and breathless risks and escapes, it is also the love story of actor and commoner Elias Wilde, his farming family made destitute by the queen, and Lord James Edmund Bauffremont of Bloomsbury: would-be medical man, scion of a brutal father, and reluctant fiancé of a noblewoman. When Elias witnesses the savage murder of his friend Kit Marlowe, he vows to unmask the culprit. He thus comes into the employ of Lord Bloomsbury and finds himself disguised as a lord, ineffectually sleuthing but somehow winning the good graces of the queen, who appoints him and Bloomsbury her spymasters. Their career is one of wrong turns, misinterpretations, and bad judgments; what runs steadily through all the novel’s eventfulness is Elias’s fraught emotion: his forlorn urge to find his family and his growing passion and confidence in James’s love. Cotter packs many sly literary and historical references into this playfully far-fetched queer tale, along with much romance and affection.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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