It’s been quite a while since I reviewed Cauldron’s Bubble, the first book in the Shakespeare-inspired Netherfeld trilogy, but today I’m finally wrapping up the trilogy with a review of books two and three!
Books: Double Double Toil and Trouble Fires Burn by Amber Elby
Read before: No
Ownership: Review copies sent free of charge by the author. All opinions my own.
First things first – this is definitely not a series you can drop in on partway through! If you haven’t already read the first book, you will definitely want to start there, because the events of that book deeply inform what’s going on here. You don’t need much knowledge of Shakespeare, though there are a lot of small references that enhance the story if you do have some – but don’t worry if you want to jump in! As this follows so closely on from book one, and I’m trying to keep things spoiler-free, it will mean there’s not too much I can tell you about the plot. There’s really one story split across the trilogy, which is also why I’ve decided to review these books together.
So, as with the first book, we follow Alda and Dreng as they negotiate their way through a world filled with magic, populated by the characters of Shakespeare. Though some characters we met in the first book are no longer around, those who remain develop in interesting ways that play with the boundary between good and evil – I liked that each character seemed to hold a tension within themselves. There’s an underlying exploration of how the role you want to play may not necessarily be the way that others perceive you, or the way that the world needs to you be. We also meet several new characters, particularly in the second book. I really enjoyed the take on Titania and Oberon’s courts, which are much less whimsical and much more violent and deadly!
There’s also a lot more “timey-wimey stuff” in these two books (as the Doctor might put it), and you definitely have to pay attention to keep the timelines straight. The first book had a more straightforward narrative flow, for sure, but all the puzzle pieces thrown into the air in the second book do fall into place by the end of the trilogy in a really satisfying way. Alda and Dreng have aged a bit, too, and there are some elements of romance for each of them, but nothing that would make this unsuitable for middle grade readers! It’s actually hard to pin this down to an age range, and I think it will appeal to older and youngers readers alike.
If you’re looking for a smart, Shakespeare-y read full of adventure, magic, and big questions, this is definitely the series for you! Four out of five cats!