Usually I pick a book by reading the blurb on the back; sometimes I find the title is intriguing. In this case, I knew I have never been disappointed with YA novels written by Caroline Cooney, and found her latest book to be no exception.
Interweaving quotes from Shakespeare's original play, Cooney crafted her own version of the Macbeth story. In the process, she created a new character, Lady Mary, through whose eyes much of the story is seen. By the way, this book is a masterpiece of multiple points-of-view which is not an easy task for a writer. But by writing it in this manner, Cooney allows the reader to see the misunderstandings between the characters as each perceives events based upon their own bias. The resulting miscommunication can provide many teachable moments for family or classroom discussion.
The themes of lust for power, deception, and greed are summarized at the very end when Lady Mary notes, "Macbeth is a great man gone bad." The cunning which she and Fleance use to defeat a castle full of soldiers is amusing and gratifying to the reader and provides a happy ending to an otherwise tragic story. Having just traveled to Scotland last spring, I could more easily picture the castles and countryside; that added another dimension to this attention-grabbing book.
I recommend this book for students who might be reluctant to read Macbeth in the full Shakespearean English, and think it is suitable for middle school students and above. There is plenty of blood and warfare to satisfy boys, and enough romance and court intrigue to keep female readers turning the pages (or, like me, hooked to their CD-player or iPod!) (Scholastic, 2007)