Book Tour Review: The Semper Sonnet by Seth Margolis

Saturday, December 3, 2016
Title: The Semper Sonnets
Author: Seth Margolis
Genre: historical fiction, thriller
Series: N/A
Pages: 374
Published: April 2016
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 4/5

A long-lost manuscript, written for Elizabeth I, holds the key to unlocking the past—and to eliminating the future.

Lee Nicholson is ready to take the academic world by storm, having discovered a sonnet she believes was written by William Shakespeare. When she reads the poem on the air, the words put her life in peril and trigger a violent chase, with stakes that reach far beyond the cloistered walls of academia.

Buried in the language of the sonnet, in its allusions and wordplay, are secrets that have been hidden since Elizabethan times, secrets known only to the queen and her trusted doctor, but guessed at by men who seek the crown and others who seek the world. If the riddles are solved, it could explode what the world knows of the great Elizabeth I. And it could release a pandemic more deadly than the world has ever imagined.

Lee’s quest for the answers buried in the sonnet keeps her one step ahead of an international hunt—from the police who want her for murder, to a group of men who will stop at nothing to end her quest, to a madman who pursues the answers for destructive reasons of his own.

As this intelligent thriller moves back and forth between Tudor England and the present day, Lee begins to piece together the meaning behind Shakespeare’s words, carrying the story to its gasp-out-loud conclusion.

Dual timeline novels are always a creative, tricky, and fun approach, and Seth Margolis applies that creativity to Tudor mysteries and secrets and a modern race to uncover them. The two stories tie together rather neatly; The Semper Sonnet is a clever book and Margolis is an author that layers his narratives with plenty of hints, clues, and aha! moments. Lee's story is more action-packed than her Elizabeth physician counterpart Rufus Hatton, but each narrative is interesting and the book is entertaining.

This is an easy rec to make for fans of Dan Brown's famous Robert Langdon series, but Seth Margolis has a better grasp on the techniques of writing and his book is stronger for it. The Semper Sonnet is a thoroughly blended mix of the historical fiction and thriller staples, but there's little infodumping and the book takes pains to show more than it tells. Spanning international borderlines and several centuries, the truth behind Edward Filer is one that propels both Lee and the plot; in doing so, the author puts his own spin on one of the most popular historical conspiracy theories.

Tangling Shakespeare's legacy and a long-untold secret of his times, the plot of The Semper Sonnet is a detailed and involved affair. Developing its many angles takes up the lion's share of the narrative attention so Lee is a moderately well-defined main character, but not, I think, a particularly memorable one. She has personality, agency, and an arc but characterization is not the main strength of this novel. The Semper Sonnet made for an evenly-plotted and well-paced read; its plot was clever and creative take on a well-known historical "what if?"


Blog Tour Schedule

Thursday, December 1
Review at Jessica and Gracie’s Tree

Friday, December 2
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Saturday, December 3
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, December 5
Review at A Bookaholic Swede

Tuesday, December 6
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, December 7
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Thursday, December 8
Interview at Author Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Spotlight at Susan Heim on Writing

Friday, December 9
Review at Trisha Jenn Reads

Monday, December 12
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Wednesday, December 14
Review at JulzReads

Thursday, December 15
Guest Post at JulzReads

Friday, December 16
Spotlight at Books, Dreams, Life

Monday, December 19
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, December 21
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, December 27
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Wednesday, December 28
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, December 29
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Friday, December 30
Review at Broken Teepee

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