Sarah A. Hoyt, All Night Awake (Ace Books, 2002)

I thought that All Night Awake was a charmed name; doubly charmed, as I had no other books to read at the moment. Holding the hardback edition in my hands, I gleefully anticipated snuggling 'all night awake' to finish it.

That didn't happen.

The reasons were many, but the most pertinent one would be that the prose gave me a headache. It seemed overwrought, often awkward and self-conscious (or worse, with no consciousness at all of what it sounded like), and I kept coming out of the story to furrow my brow at a particularly ripe turn of phrase. The characters lived complicated lives, but lacked complicated personalities; I found myself longing for some complexity, any complexity, to give these characters depth.

The end result was that I put aside the book and, for lack of anything better to do, went to sleep. Pretty auspicious beginning, eh?

But then I went back to it. Not right away, but I went back to it. I met Kit Marlowe, who quickly became my favorite character (followed only just by Quicksilver, possibly because they seemed more unique then most of their fellow cast members), and after slogging through a chapter found myself engrossed.

The story starts in William Shakespeare's dream. He dreams of three women, and in a scene reminiscent of Macbeth they offer him what he wants more than anything in the world: poetic greatness. However, there's a catch. He has to save the world. You see, something is about to happen which will damage the Hunter, one of the three "male elements" in the universe -- breaking a precarious balance. After that, the evil (evil is a word that is used a lot) will then try to injure the female element somehow, using sympathetic magic. Only Will Shakespeare can help.

He wakes up, dismisses the dream, and goes about trying to find work. Meanwhile, in the Fairy Kingdom something terrible happens...

I won't give away any more of the plot. Suffice it to say, there is a convergence on London, where most of the action will take place, and things are constantly changing. I will say this for Ms. Hoyt: aside from being very well-researched (see also the excellent bibliography she includes) she constantly has interesting side-plots going. In fact, the side-plots were what kept me reading; I didn't care much for Will Shakespeare. I cared for Kit. (Of course, I was biased in that respect; I liked Kit. A lot.)

All Night Awake reads like a melodrama set in Elizabethan England, with the added bonus of fairies. It has all the elements for an entertaining read: passion, betrayal, love, an insane old Queen Elizabeth wielding a massive sword, revenge, hatred, good, evil, enough twists to keep predictability levels to a low, and did I mention an insane, paranoid old Queen Elizabeth wielding a massive, rusty sword?

Ms. Hoyt has potential, and though I don't know whether I'll buy her next book (maybe I'll check it out from the library instead), if you can get past the flaws or are looking for some light entertainment All Night Awake might fit the bill.

[Jessica Paige]

And in case you wanted to check the product out for yourself (even after reading this review), Ms. Hoyt has a Web site at www.sarahahoyt.com with many excerpts from both All Night Awake and Ill Met by Moonlight (which GMR has reviewed).