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Publisher's Summary

It is a tale of ghosts, of madness, of revenge - of old alliances giving way to new intrigues. Denmark is changing, shaking off its medieval past. War with Norway is on the horizon. And Hamlet - son of the old king, nephew of the new - becomes increasingly entangled in a web of deception - and murder.

Struggling to find his place in this strange new order Hamlet tries to rekindle his relationship with Ophelia - the daughter of Elsinore’s cunning spy master, a man with plots of his own. Hamlet turns for advice and support to the one person he can trust -- Young Yorick, the slippery, unruly jester, whose father helped Hamlet through a difficult childhood. And all the while the armed forces of Fortinbras, prince of Norway, start to assemble, threatening to bring down Elsinore forever.

Beautifully performed by actor Richard Armitage ("Thorin Oakenshield" in the Hobbit films), Hamlet, Prince of Denmark takes Shakespeare’s original into unexpected realms, reinventing a story we thought we knew.

A. J. Hartley is the New York Times best-selling author of the Will Hawthorne fantasy series and several thrillers, as well as the Darwen Arkwright books for younger readers. He is the Russell Robinson Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

David Hewson is the best-selling author of more than 20 novels, including the Nic Costa crime series and a trilogy of books based on the hit Danish television show The Killing. His most-recent novel, The House of Dolls, begins a new series set in Amsterdam.

Richard Armitage is known to movie audiences around the world as "Thorin Oakenshield" in the trilogy of films based on The Hobbit. Born in Leicester, England, and trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Armitage has performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and created memorable roles on Robin Hood, North & South, and other British TV series.

©2014 A.J. Hartley, David Hewson (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What the critics say

"It's a fresh, contemporary take on Shakespeare's tragedy, one not afraid to create new characters or cut long soliloquies. We get a noirish Hamlet, who, when asked by Laertes if he's ready to fence, blurts out: 'I've been ready all my life.'" (Associated Press)
"English literature teachers worried about getting pupils entranced by Shakespeare should plug them in to this imaginative gloss on Hamlet before starting on the real thing. Hobbit-fanciers will rejoice to find that Richard “Thorin Oakenshield” Armitage is an outstandingly versatile narrator. This is the one of the most powerful listening experiences that I’ve had." (The Times London)
"Armitage is amazing. He's more than a simple reader, showing himself as a gifted actor. He gives distinct life to each of the many characters in the tragedy, making it easy to follow the story. You can actually close your eyes and listen to the work and imagine the scenes unfolding, thanks to Armitage's acting skills." (AudioFile)

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  • C. Telfair
  • 2014-08-23

Something Rotten in Denmark...


…But not entirely what we have always thought!

Shakespearean purists may object, but, as the authors point out in the epilogue, Shakespeare himself wasn't a purist. He borrowed and changed and molded stories to the stage.

And it's a good story! This novelization, without the familiar speeches, proves that the basic tale still holds attention and gives the authors a great opportunity for expanding characters and plot features.

I'll admit I bought this primarily to hear the wonderful voice of Richard Armitage, and he certainly does not disappoint. As with all excellent narrations, the listener quickly forgets she/he is experiencing the voice of one person, and we are drawn into the action and the characters effortlessly.

I love this take on the old story. There's depth of emotion here, and the characters and actions make sense in a new way. Anyone who's enjoyed Tom Stoppard's "Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead" should appreciate the twists and turns in this version as well.

As a wonderful bonus for those of us who have longed for deeper and better-realized female characters in Shakespeare's plays (tho we know we've had no right to expect it), Hartley and Hewson endow the women of Elsinor with brains and sensible motives and actions.

It's refreshing and different and beautifully read.

53 of 57 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim "The Impatient"
  • 2015-09-07

WHAT MISCHIEF IS THIS?

ALL MEN ARE CRUEL
The other reviewers have compared this to the play. For that reason let me go a different route. If you are a fan of Fantasy Epics, George RR, or the game of Kings and Queens, Princes and castles, this is a novel for you. I will not say this is as good as Fire and Ice, but it is full of men with GRISLED BEARDS, royal murder, back stabbing, and all the intrigue of castle life. The Castle itself has it's own personality. I TAKE WHAT I WANT WHEN I WANT. Their are spies: IF YOU COULD TELL SPIES FROM THE WAY THEY LOOKED, THEY WOULD NOT BE SPIES. There are even pirates. IT'S ALWAYS THE WOMAN WHEN THERE'S BLAME TO BE APPORTIONED.

THERE WILL BE A TOMORROW AND A TOMORROW AFTER THAT
My favorite character is Yorick, who is a dwarf fool. Like usual the fool is most likely the smartest one in the castle and he has the sharp wit and mouth of a fool. The twist at the end, involving Yorick, which you will mostly likely guess half way through is also satisfying. Above all it is a tragedy.

AND NOW THE REST IS SILENCE
Richard Armitage is an excellent actor and narrator who brings class to this novel.

SOME WOUNDS HEAL SLOWLY

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Madeleine
  • 2014-06-10

The Devil's In the Details

I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling and restructuring of Hamlet. I began listening with moderate expectations, knowing the play well and expecting it would just be a fleshing out of the original, but it was so much more than that.

The authors have done a wonderfully creative job of approaching the tale from a fresh, very lateral perspective. Lesser events and characters in the play are brought to the fore, and a wonderful layer of Machiavellian political intrigue suffuses the story. The same is true of the play's original paranormal elements. The authors have developed it into a lush political and psychological thriller.

I didn't give the story five stars only because I found the villain of the piece (I won't tell you who it is because that would be a huge spoiler) a little underdeveloped and cardboardish. That being said, this was more than a retelling of the play. If you like historical mysteries or alternate histories, you'll love this. It's rich and atmospheric and wonderful.

The narration was outstanding.

58 of 64 people found this review helpful

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  • Toni
  • 2014-05-23

Hartley and Hewson have done it again!

Any additional comments?

A. J. Harley has once again masterfully added flesh and sinew to a Shakespeare tragedy, this time bringing the story of Hamlet to life. Those who have succeeded in reading the original may not appreciate Hartley's work. But for those of us who, despite our desire, have been unable to overcome the difficulty inherent in reading Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hartley and Hewson have given us a wonderful gift. And Richard Armitage was an awesome pick for narration.

35 of 39 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • 2014-05-24

Fantastic whether you like Shakespeare or not!

Just as great as their audio novelization of Macbeth, perhaps even better. The narration, the story, everything is unsurpassed. Shakespeare himself I think would be pleased.

39 of 44 people found this review helpful

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  • Melanchthon
  • 2014-05-21

Purely pleasurable new perspective on Hamlet.

What made the experience of listening to Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel the most enjoyable?

Undoubtedly Richard Armitage's voicings. Yes, I'm a fan, but Armitage should win many more listeners for his other work from this audiobook. But both the voices of the characters and the narration are performed at a uniformly high quality. A lot of thought went into the pacing and the energy behind every scene, and one can easily listen for several hours without wanting to pause. Moreover, for Armitage's fans, this is a really different style of reading than his previous work -- much more impassioned, much more forceful, and throughout, simply intriguing to listen to. You wonder what he will do next. And interestingly there are many voices here (Polonius is the one that sticks out for me as striking) that we have not previously heard from him.

Readers who enjoy popular history will definitely enjoy this work as well -- it fills in a lot of historical and political context that would have been apparent to Shakespeare's audiences but which no one but theater people and scholars are aware of these days. If you don't like Shakespeare because you feel left at sea by the language and the plot, you should give this a try, because it really makes the plot extremely career, and the language is contemporary. The work communicates its intent really effectively.

What other book might you compare Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel to and why?

Mary Stewart, The Ivy Tree (modern retelling of Jane Eyre)

What does Richard Armitage bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His voice has a great tone quality, but what I appreciate here is that he never overdoes it. He conveys a lot of emotion without every chomping on the scenery, become pathetic, or overtaxing the listener's patience for some of the potentially soppy aspects of the play (e.g., Hamlet's proto-existential conflicts, which can get truly sophomoric and tedious in the hands of the wrong performer). The actor himself seems particularly preoccupied with the elements of the story that have to do with tradition and inheritance of the past, but I'm also extremely intrigued, in fact tied to the headphones, by his own individual read on a classic interpretive problem in Hamlet: how mad is Hamlet really?

If you could rename Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel, what would you call it?

I like the title already.

Any additional comments?

I particularly liked how the authors modified the Mousetrap -- or play within a play that Hamlet uses to try to assess Claudius' guilt. This is one of my favorite pieces of the original play and I was wondering how they would do it -- how to convey the play within a play from the perspective of an audiobook -- and I loved it. Bringing in Burbage as a character was really a master stroke. Overall, the way the narrative visualizes the thoughts of the character is incredibly effective.

The other thing I loved was: getting the jokes immediately. Hamlet has some very amusing moments, most of them black humor, and the adaptation makes these clearer and Armitage performs them effectively.

31 of 35 people found this review helpful

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  • Mikie L Smithers
  • 2014-06-03

Brilliant and Thrilling

What made the experience of listening to Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel the most enjoyable?

The rich characterizations and thrilling sequences that Mr Hartley and Mr Hewson have provided were a wonderful addition to what I already knew of the story. Mr Armitage's narration was flawless.

What did you like best about this story?

The story provided additional depth and details that pulled me in and had me captivated. Ophelia was such a strong and intelligent figure in this re-telling.

Which character – as performed by Richard Armitage – was your favorite?

Although I loved many of the characters, my favorite was Yorick. He brought a level of humor and irreverence to the story that was an important balance to the tragedy and melancholy of the other characters. His conversations with Hamlet were rich and entertaining and Mr Armitage's choice of voice for Yorick only serve to reinforce my enjoyment of the character.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes and no. I was captivated and wanted to hear what was going to happen next but like a fine meal, I wanted to savor every morsel.

Any additional comments?

As a fan of Shakespeare, I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy a re-telling of such a known and loved work. I downloaded it because of an interest in hearing Mr Armitage's narration. It was my first of his narrations as well and was based on the recommendations of others. I was not disappointed by either the story or the narration. I loved the story and all of the performance. I have now downloaded MacBeth: A Novel by Mr Hartley and Mr Hewson and look forward to more re-telling adventures from this duo (hopefully, narrated by Mr Armitage too).

22 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • Claire Fedoruk
  • 2014-06-19

An extremely well done interpretation

Would you listen to Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel again? Why?

Absolutely...I already have because as with Shakespeare, I feel one listening is never enough and discover new layers of meaning in each hearing. I also can never hear enough of Mr. Armitage's beautiful voice and wonderful characterizations. I love that the authors never make any clear delineation about the questions of Hamlet's madness or dream state, but add new layers and explanations for some of the characters behavior in the play. I also love hearing the famous speeches in their interpretation.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Ophelia for her layers of depth and love for Hamlet; she seems the only truly compassionate character in the book.

What does Richard Armitage bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

That voice. I would rate his reading talent and his baritone voice in the same league as Alan Rickman, Jeremy Irons and Derek Jacobi. I have heard Mr. Armitage read the Lords of the North, and found his Danish and Saxon accents, characterizations and unique approach to each absolutely brilliant. This really worked well in this book as well when he reads the character of Fortinbras and the mercenary Scots he employs. He has narrated many other audiobooks and I truly hope he continues to do so, as I will always buy his work.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

You thought you knew Hamlet...

Any additional comments?

More from the authors and narrator please!! Looking forward to hearing MacBeth now that I have heard this!

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Janice
  • 2014-05-24

Masterful retelling of a masterpiece

"Complex" is an adjective found in most reviews of this retelling of Shakespeare's classic. So I'm not unique in finding new depth to the characters - Ophelia, Hamlet himself, and (for me) especially Claudius. Is Hamlet mad or acting? Is Claudius evil or caught in the one act he committed (perhaps) through the evil manipulations of another? By adding back stories to the major and secondary characters, the story moves beyond the dramatic (and melodramatic) familiarity of Shakespeare's speeches into a tragedy of real people's lives. The reading is near perfection, providing personality to the characters without intruding upon the action. I am inspired now to return to the original source, reading the poetry again with the characters newly revealed.

To Hartley and Hewson - Is Lear next?

32 of 38 people found this review helpful

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  • Celia
  • 2015-05-12

The Play's the Thing

After enjoying the Macbeth novelization, read by Alan Cumming, I had hopes for this adaptation as well. Sadly, a major disappointment. The embellishments to the plot - and there are many - add nothing, and if anything, the character of Hamlet is even harder to grasp than in the play, only here there are none of the rewards Shakespeare gives you for parsing. Truly problematic language - not only no match for Shakespeare, but barely quoting him - and lots of anachronisms make this a perfect example of, "Why did they bother?" Only Armitage's beautiful voice and attempts at insights, in spite of the words he's saddled with, kept me listening. And I guess a streak of optimism, which was thwarted by the end.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful