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As she proved in Restoration, Tremain can write literary historical novels whose period details encompass the social and intellectual currents of their time and place. This dazzlingly imaginative, powerfully atmospheric work is set mainly in 17th-century Denmark. One of the protagonists is English, however, and Tremain captures the sensibilities of natives of both countries. British lutenist Peter Claire arrives in Copenhagen in 1629 to join the orchestra of King Christian IV. Depressed after a doomed love affair with a soulful Irish countess, Peter finds his melancholy mood mirrored by that of the king, who is beset by both financial and marital crises. That fruitless wars and profligate spending by the Danish nobility have depleted the country's coffers is the king's public woe; privately, his heart is anguished by the behavior of his consort, Kristen Munk, who despises her own children, keeps her spouse from her bed and is carrying on with a German mercenary. Recognizing in Peter's handsome countenance a resemblance to a lost childhood friend, Christian declares that Peter is the "angel" who will help solve his personal and national problems. Tremain's complex plot is built in small increments. Excerpts from the brazenly selfish Kirsten's diary alternate with the points of view of dozens of others, including Kirsten's lady-in-waiting Emilia Tilsen. Kirsten deems Emilia irreplaceable and prevents her from openly acknowledging her feelings for Peter. Love--requited and thwarted, healthy and perverted, damaging and healing--is one theme of the novel, represented by six pairs of lovers. Love is inextricably tied to the power to enslave; perhaps it's a form of enchantment, of which another manifestation is music. Tremain builds her narrative via alternating voices blending like the solos of musical instruments. Threading irony among its many leitmotifs (Christian IV, for example, who understands that music can "lead to the divine," subjects his musicians to brutal living conditions), the narrative sweeps to a dramatic crescendo, with several characters in mortal danger and the prospect of tragedy everywhere. Yet it ends in felicitous harmony, a triumph of storytelling by a master of the art. 9-city author tour. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Fans of Tremain's historical fiction Restoration will delight in her new novel, Music & Silence. The year is 1629, and King Christian IV of Denmark fears that his life is spinning out of control as he watches his royal consort, Kirsten, openly flaunt her adulterous affairs and his country fall into ruins. To assuage his misery, he appoints the Royal Orchestra to play in the freezing cellar of his palace while he listens in the cozy Vinterstue above. Music, the king hopes, will bring the sublime order he craves. His consort, in contrast, detests all music and is forever devising "Beautiful Plans" to rid herself of the king. Caught in the struggle between the forces of music and silence, light and darkness, are Peter Claire, the king's lutenist, and Emily Tilsen, the royal consort's waiting woman, who try to nurture their love within the treacherous confines of the Danish court. Music & Silence plays both the high and low notes of humanity: it descends darkly with lust and betrayal and crescendos with the magic of love and romance. --Veronica Scrol