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Conflict is also presented in the play by differentiation of illusion and reality; Hamlet must define what separates truth

from its superficial representations, and hence take charge of it in order to deal with the physical aspects of his conflict. One is therefore able to empathise with Hamlet as a three-dimensional character, and be drawn into the dramatic nature of his inward struggle. At the very beginning of the play the concept of illusion becomes integral, as the ghost of King Hamlet appears to urge his son Hamlet to avenge his death. Hamlet must therefore discern what of this supernatural encounter is real and what is merely the product of his imagination. This internal conflict is particularly apparent in the scene where Hamlets sanity is indeed put to question over his apparent comprehension of the ghost where others cannot. His mother Gertrude remarks in response to his conversation with the ghost; Gertrude - The Queen of Denmark, Hamlets mother, recently married to Claudius. Gertrude loves Hamlet deeply, but she is a shallow, weak woman who seeks affection and status more urgently than moral rectitude or truth. Read an in-depth analysis of Gertrude. Polonius - The Lord Chamberlain of Claudiuss court, a pompous, conniving old man. Polonius is the father of Laertes and Ophelia. Horatio - Hamlets close friend, who studied with the prince at the university in Wittenberg. Horatio is loyal and helpful t o Hamlet throughout the play. After Hamlets death, Horatio remains alive to tell Hamlets story. Ophelia - Poloniuss daughter, a beautiful young woman with whom Hamlet has been in love. Ophelia is a sweet and innocent young girl, w ho obeys her father and her brother, Laertes. Dependent on men to tell her how to behave, she gives in to Poloniuss schemes to spy on Hamlet. Even in her lapse into madness and death, she remains maidenly, singing songs about flowers and finally drowning in the river amid the flower garlands she had gathered. Laertes - Poloniuss son and Ophelias brother, a young man who spends much of the play in France. Passionate and quick to action, Laer tes is clearly a foil for the reflective Hamlet. Fortinbras - The young Prince of Norway, whose father the king (also named Fortinbras) was killed by Hamlets father (also named Hamlet). Now Fortinbras wishes to attack Denmark to avenge his fathers honor, making him another foil for Prince Hamlet. The Ghost - The specter of Hamlets recently deceased father. The ghost, who claims to have been murdered by Claudius, calls upon Hamlet to avenge him. However, it is not entirely certain whether the ghost is what it appears to be, or whether it is something else. Hamlet speculates that the ghost might be a devil sent to deceive him and tempt him into murder, and the question of what the ghost is or where it comes from is never definitively resolved. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern - Two slightly bumbling courtiers, former friends of Hamlet from Wittenberg, who are summoned by Claudius and Gertrude to discover the cause of Hamlets strange behavior. Osric - The foolish courtier who summons Hamlet to his duel with Laertes. Voltimand and Cornelius - Courtiers whom Claudius sends to Norway to persuade the king to prevent Fortinbras from attacking. Marcellus and Bernardo - The officers who first see the ghost walking the ramparts of Elsinore and who summon Horatio to witness it. Marcellus is present when Hamlet first encounters the ghost. Francisco - A soldier and guardsman at Elsinore. Reynaldo - Poloniuss servant, who is sent to France by Polonius to check up on and spy on Laertes. Black feathers Ever since I had the opportunity to read Meat, the occasion of being able to get a new Joseph DLacey story and read it has excited and intrigued me. Meat was shocking, searing, and true in a way very few novels have ever achieved (read my review here), and now that I think about it, perhaps Stephen King had so many words in his mind after reading Meat that rocks seemed the best word to encapsulate them all. Why? Well, Joseph does p lenty right in ever story he writes, and Black Feathers (incoming from Angry Robot Books) was yet another example of his versatility and understanding of what it means to be human. The story focuses on two characters, Gordon Black and Megan Maurice, who live in different eras and cultures. Gordon lives in a world that we, at first, understand; it is our world, with its electricity and cars and skyscrapers and cel lphones and internet. But Gordons birth is an event that echoes up and outwards, into the future in which Megan lives. Megan is chosen to take the first steps on a path that might lead her to being a Keeper, the history- and memory-keepers of the land and its people. Connecting them is a force (perhaps of good, perhaps of evil) called The Crowman, and in the world of the Bright Day (an era of peace after the terrible, destroying events of the Black Dawn), Megan feels the call to find The Crowman. As does Gordon. How they do this is the story of Black Feathers. From the get-go Joseph layered the story in mystery we are introduced to Gordons father, sisters and mother, who each have their own role to play in Gordons story; we witness the strange circumstances of his birth (leading to his fathers reactions and, much later, an important event in Megans life), and we begin to understand that Gordons world, our world, is changing. Perhaps not for the better. As Gordon grows and matures he keeps a diary (my eyes only), in which he records thoughts that most people, including his family, might think evidence of insanity, thoughts and recollections and memories of dreams, of hearing a voice not his own in his mind, of his peculiar almost-need to collect corvid feathers, of his burgeoning fear and bewilderment at the events beginning to overtake the world (the fall of everything, to be replaced should they succeed- by a group bent on dominating everyone and everything), of constantly wondering whether he is insane Hes just a young boy, not y et a teenager, and he has to deal with all of this. Chapter after chapter Gordon grew, and succeeded, and failed he is, to my mind, the kind of character that many, many readers will be able to identify with. He has crippling moments of doubt, surges of almost overwhelming exhaustion and sadness; like many people, he knows that to ask questions is to be hurt, yet he knows that without knowledge or pain, nothing can ever be learned or understood. Indeed, he had to face more in his fourteen, fifteen years than most people face in the entire span of their lives. As a character he was mesmerizing and a joy to discover, written with a depth of emotion and empathy by Joseph that helped me to truly inhabit Gordons skin. Megan was also beautifully written her world is changed irrevocably on a day that she goes into a forest near her home, and from that moment on hers is a journey of discovery and self. Through her we discover how drastically life has changed since the Black Dawn and how those changes affected humanity and everything we did and thought we stood for and believed in. Megan is constantly curious and possessed of a beautiful strength, the kind of character that slips quietly in and watches you reading from across the room. Like Gordon, though, she is forced into a world sh es only heard whispers about and doesnt understand at all, and her journey to knowledge lost nothing even as Joseph used her to explain more about the world as it was after the Black Dawn. The balance between world-building and characterization in this novel especially as regards Megan- was expertly handled, with neither suffering at the others expense. Instead, both seemed to add to the other which was very important, since the people and the land (both during the Black Dawn and the Bright Day) are inextricably linked. As can be expected from Josephs work, there are moments of horror, moments of wide-eyed disbelief, moments of laughter and tears and silence pregnant with either peace or rage. He managed to handle everything beautifully and with respect, making both his characters and the world they inhabit come alive. One of Josephs undeniable strengths as a storyteller is the ability to remember and use the small things those moments that have nothing to do with advancing the plot and yet have everything to do with advancing the plot, because without those small moments the world and the characters wouldnt ring true. But be warned there are some scenes that may make you flinch, despite the knowledge that these arent real people or real situations, and I guess thats the mark of a truly good storyteller: making you feel. Black Feathers is a post-apocalyptic urban-fantasy journey-of-discovery horror and much more

that doesnt fall into a category of any kind. I loved this book and Im so glad that its the first of two kudos to Angry Robot for sending me Joseph DLaceys best story to date, and massive thanks to Joseph for writing it. Im definitely coming back for more! Black Feathers is a modern fantasy set in two epochs: the Black Dawn, a time of environmental apocalypse, and generations into the future in its aftermath, the Bright Day. In each era, a child undertakes a perilous journey to find a dark messiah known as The Crowman. In their hands lies the fate of the planet as they attempt to discover whether The Crowman is our saviour or the final incarnation of evil. (Synopsis from Goodreads) --Black Feathers is the first in a dark fantasy trilogy from horror writer Joseph DLacey. It has a very interesting setting, being split betw een two time periods, neither of which is very common in fantasy, and the combination of the two seemed quite unusual to me. Theres a modern -day pre-apocalyptic Britain. Whereas post-apocalypse is a well-trodden sub-genre, the actual build up and early days of the end times is much less common, perhaps featuring more in the thriller genre than fantasy. This setting in Black Feathers had elements of familiar disaster stories, but the apocalypse here is not sudden and obliterating; its much subtler, creeping up on civilisation and killing it slowly. Its actually quite disturbing in its intensity and realism more than any other apocalypse in fiction this one felt to me like it really could happen, or is perhaps already happening. These are the present day sections of the novel, which are actually told in past-tense. The other sections are set in the future in present tense, post apocalypse but far enough ahead that civilisation now lives as normal, albeit in a less numerous and more rural and at-peace-with-the-land state. In this sense, Joseph DLacey is telling the story of an apocalypse in a more literal sense of the word an uncovering and a change, a transition from one state of living to another rather than the end of everything. Its not just a story of the end of the world as we know it, but its decline the why, and the effect it has on people as well as a story of the world that exists beyond it. I thought both these settings were very interesting, and the inclusion of subtle magic (mainly in the future setting), a well-created sense of folklore, and prophecies of doom all made the world of this book a really memorable one. The author has an amazing ability to evoke a dark, tense and brooding atmosphere, as if there is always someone watching, something waiting, or disaster about to strike. There were points where the tension was so thick it felt like the characters must have trouble breathing. And over everything theres a strong sense of menace, of some kind of lurkin g intent. This feeling ties in well with the mythology of the Crowman in the story. What is this mysterious being a man, or something else? What does he want, and is he here to save the world or to destroy it? Is he evil or good, or something beyond either? Although the reader sees events through the eyes of two children who are searching for the Crownman, who both have strong reasons to believe that he will help them and the world, its still impossible to say whether the Crowman is really something good. The figure is creepy, his folklore is creepy, and events, particularly towards the end of the book, left me questioning whether we are seeing the story of some kind of manipulating devil-creature after all. This was well done, complementing the story and the atmosphere, and leaving a sense of mystery. The book did have some problems for me, the main one being that there were sections that felt as if they dragged for too long with very little happening. Its a very slow-moving story, and at points this frustrated me slightly, particularly the more repetitive aspects Gordon walks for a while and the section ends with him determined to find the Crowman, then in the next section Gordon walks some more and the section ends with him determined to find the Crowman, etc. There were times when all either Megan or Gordon were doing was walking and thinking, which I would have preferred to be cut a bit shorter. However, having said that, Joseph DLaceys writing style is beautiful and always a joy to read, with the dryer sections lift ed by some wonderful imagery. I also found both Megan and Gordon to be very intriguing characters who grow a lot through the course of the novel. The parallels between the two were clever, as if they were mirror images of each other, or driven by fate to repeat the endless cycle of the past. This drew the two storylines together, helping to keep all aspects of the story feeling relevant. I found myself wondering a lot about where each character was heading at points Gordon seems to be choosing a rather dark path, and there is clearly more to Megans story than we have been told. The book has some strong messages about the way humans interact with their environment and the way we treat the Earth. The apocalypse is not brought on by some kind of freak accident, but through the incessant build-up of human belligerence, selfishness and greed. The author does a great job of showing that it is people who are the true horror the way they treat both the world and each other and most of the true danger in the book (particularly to Gordon) comes from other survivors. Im not sure that returning to such a rural, pre-industrial form of life is necessary to solve our environmental and social issues, but I do think the themes in this story are very important ones, and that they were handled well by the author. This is certainly a relevant book. In the last stage of the book the pace really speeds up and some major changes begin to happen. An even greater sense of magic and the supernatural comes in, and although it had felt to me like the story was stalling a little by this point, now it really gripped hard and didnt let go until the end. By now the reader will have a lot of questions and expectations for the next books, and theres a sense that both Megans and Gordons storie s will move in surprising directions. With memorable settings, vivid writing and important themes, Black Feathers is an extremely atmospheric and thought-provoking read.

Thank you to Angry Robot and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Conclusion: Hamlet and Horatio speak with a cheerful Clown or gravedigger. Hamlet famously realizes that man's accomplishments are transitory (fleeting) and holding the skull of Yorick, a childhood jester he remembered, creates a famous scene about man's insignificance and inability to control his fate following death.