Thursday, September 21, 2023

By Any Other Name by Erin Cotter


I was so excited to get a copy of this book. One of my favorite historical fiction (and fantasy, let's be honest) tropes is court intrigue, and the prospect of a gay romance filled with spymasters, assassins, and Shakespearean plays really tickled my fancy. Mostly because I'd read a book before with that exact blend of tropes, called AN ASSASSIN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND TREASON, and loved it. I fully expected to become just as obsessed as this one. Which is maybe not fair to the book, but it's a fact of the world that if you read something in a genre that blows you away, that's going to frame how you approach similar books going forward.

BY ANY OTHER NAME is an okay book. Honestly, it felt like more of a 2, 2.5 book but I'm rounding up a little because the writing was great and it was fun having a shallow, self-absorbed hero as the protagonist. He's an actor and he, well, acts like it. Which made him more fun than the stoic, super macho heroes that seem to be en vogue nowadays. I like a hero who's lax with his masculinity. He has a sad backstory too: he was nearly sold into slavery and only barely escaped, and now lives on the fringes of society with revenge in his heart, as he plays females on stage to survive.

When his voice starts cracking, though, that throws a wrench in his plans and through a series of unfortunate circumstances, he ends up working for one of the lords of society that he hates so much, trying to stop Queen Elizabeth from being assassinated. DON'T read the summary/blurb for this book by the way. It has major spoilers, including something that I assumed would happen right from the beginning but is actually gradually foreshadowed and built up to in the narrative. I think it's supposed to be a shock in the book, but because it's mentioned IN THE SUMMARY, it was not a surprise at all. Publishing houses, I'M BEGGING YOU. Don't do this.

I'm giving this a mid rating because it felt much, much longer than it needed to be. The pacing is not great and the book takes ages to build up to where it's going. It's also less about court intrigue than it is about one of those SIX OF CROWS-ish heist gang sort of plots, and had I known that, I wouldn't have applied for this book, because I don't like SoC or heists. I also didn't really feel the chemistry between Will and James. They felt very platonic, more like friends than love interests. I wish their relationship had been developed more, maybe with pining or, you know, some sort of emotional understanding. Just because you have your characters physically get together, that doesn't mean you're selling it.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

2.5 out of 5 stars

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