I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.William Shakespeare's The Phantom of Menace by Ian Doescher
Series: William Shakespeare's Star Wars #1
Published by Quirk Books on April 7th, 2015
Genres: Media Tie-In, Retelling, Science Fiction
The popular, NYT best-selling Elizabethan/sci-fi mashup series continues, with a Shakespearean take on the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace. When the best-selling William Shakespeare's Star Wars presented the classic George Lucas film in the form of an Elizabethan drama, the results blew the minds of Star Wars fans and Shakespeare buffs alike. Now the curtain rises once again on that star-crossed galaxy far away, this time revealing the tragedy, hubris, and doomed romance that will lead to the fall of the Republic and the rise of an Empire. The saga starts here with this reimagining of Episode I, a prequel tale in which a disguised queen, a young hero, and two fearless knights clash with a hidden, vengeful enemy. Masterful meter, Shakespearean soliloquies and intricate Elizabethan illustrations will leave more than a few readers convinced that the Star Wars saga sprang straight from the Bard's quill.
I embarked on this quirky little series when I thought it would only be the original Star Wars series, so I was a bit surprised to hear about William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace. You would think that after three books, the novelty of the Shakespearification of Star Wars might wear off – but no! I enjoyed The Phantom of Menace immensely.
I’ll be upfront with you and say that of all the Star Wars movies, The Phantom Menace is my least favorite. This is the case for many fans, I believe, because the story’s weaker and – well – Jar Jar Binks happened. But I might venture to say that William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace is my favorite of Ian Doescher’s retellings so far. I KNOW. I’m just as surprised as you are. While in essence the story lacks some of the elements that made the original trilogy so great (Han Solo, HanxLeia, Darth Vader, Han Solooooooo), Doescher’s really hit his stride in this one.
First off, I felt the writing has gotten so much stronger. It’s immediately noticeable that Doescher’s gotten even more comfortable with Shakespearian English and has adopted more and more of his techniques. In the previous books something might have felt a bit clunky a time or two, but I honestly didn’t notice it anymore. Doescher’s writing is faithful to both Shakespeare and the Star Wars films and there are so many hilarious Easter eggs – from modified Shakespeare quotes to modified classic film quotes. It’s so clever and witty and enjoyable.
Doescher also takes some risks in The Phantom of Menace – truly reinterpreting the original film and making modifications here and there to show his interpretation while also staying faithful to original Shakespeare storytelling norms. The biggest of these changes, obviously, would be Jar Jar Binks’s role. Jar Jar is famously hated as being annoying and stupid – generally getting in the way of the other characters. Doescher transforms his character as one who is actually keenly aware of what is happening around him, who plays a stupid role to get others to respond in the ways he desires. It’s daring. Not all readers will agree. But I liked it quite a lot. Jar Jar does come across as stupid in the films, but he does help the group sometimes, in important ways, though that might be brushed off as coincidence more often than not. But Doescher gives this character a lot more depth that I do find believable and I think makes the story as a whole much stronger.
Now, there are a few weaker points in this book – namely that there are so many characters that it’s hard to keep track of at times. Of course, there is the cast list at the beginning, but I was too lazy to keep flipping back and forth. But I really enjoyed this book, perhaps even surprising myself by how much. The thing is, while the prequel trilogy gets a lot of shit from hardcore Star Wars fans, I will always have a special place for it in my heart because of the super important character arc that Anakin has. In The Phantom of Menace there is ample foreshadowing for how this will shape up in the remaining two books, and I can’t wait for it. I know Doescher can add so much depth to these characters, so I trust the rest of the series to be amazing.