By Any Other Name / Erin Cotter / Book Review


London, 1593: Will Hughes has a problem. Well, he's got a few. For one, he earns his keep on the stage as a boy actor, and London's playhouses have been shut down due to the plague. And two, he's not just used to playing a part on the stage. "Will" isn't even his real. Son of traitors, he can't let his true identity get out, or he risks losing more than just his head.

But he needs a job, and when his former mentor and famous playwright Christopher Marlowe reaches out, Will jumps on the opportunity. But a pub dinner with Marlowe goes awry when Marlowe is stabbed and killed right in front of Will. This is no accident. Marlowe was a spy for the queen, and his murderers knew exactly what they were doing.

Suddenly in more danger than he's ever been in before, Will finds himself at the mercy of a young lord who knows what Will's tangled up in. One who might be willing to help... for a price.



I loved so much of this book, and yet something about it didn't quite click for me. I think it was a wrong-place, wrong-time problem, honestly, because there's so much here to get excited about!


Reevaluating History What I absolutely love about this book is that it is, without a doubt, Elizabethan in nature but at the same time, it is presenting a different kind of historical fiction. Because it's not just about the Tudors. And it's not just about Shakespeare. In fact, neither the Tudors nor Shakespeare are cast in a particularly favorable light. The queen is harsh and cruel. Shakespeare is annoyingly self-important. Christopher Marlowe plays a more important role than Shakespeare, and so do the darker, dirtier parts of London's southern shore. And I love that.

London This book is, in many ways, a love letter to Southwark. Either Erin Cotter wrote this book while strolling through this historic part of London or she researched it so, so well. Anyone familiar with this stretch of the Thames will recognize the landmarks and the whole feeling of being there and being then.

Well-Written Erin Cotter is a master at crafting a sentence. This book is full of voice but also full of great descriptions, epic scenarios, and plot tension. This book, on a technical level, is very well crafted. Everything works in balance, and that makes for an incredible reading experience.


An important aspect of historical fiction is, of course, that it is written in the contemporary age. It is, by necessity, looking back, but that can mean an author has to balance an important line between historical accuracy and modern relevance. This book does a good job for the most part, but a few things stuck out to me as a little bit... artificial. The over-reliance on the exclamation "zounds!" for example felt a little too try-hard. And some of the particularly modern, anti-colonial sentiments characters expressed felt less than authentic.Window Dressing

I had a really hard time connecting with the secondary characters in this book, mostly because they're not developed at all. Oh, I knew what they were supposed to be, but only because I was told as much. Will's best friends abandon him fairly frequently, and while Will might not be the best of friends in return, they are definitely worse. But I don't think they were meant to be, and therein lies the problem. Fickle Friends

On some levels, it felt like this book didn't quite know what it wanted to be. Was it a Shakespearean tale, entrenched in the theatre scene just outside of London? Is it a tale of espionage and poison, regicide and experimental "medicine"? Is it a historical romance? It's a little bit of everything, and that was kind of a problem because I couldn't figure out what or who I was rooting for. What did I want to happen next? I couldn't say because I just wasn't sure where this book was going at all. Identity Crisis



Fans of Vanessa Len's Only a Monster will love this slightly more down-to-earth dive into the historic streets of London. Anyone who loves Christopher Marlowe's Dr. Faustus will adore diving into Marlowe's England.


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Date: October 10, 2023
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


  1. I’m glad that you enjoyed this book! Wonderful review of it.

  2. Sounds good.. thanks for sharing.

  3. I've always thought Kit Marlowe was underrated, both as a playwright and as a person of historical importance. This books sounds fun!

  4. I haven't heard of this book, but the plot sounds intriguing. I do like the historical aspect, but it does seem like there's a lot going on!

  5. I'm so happy you enjoyed this book! It does sound lovely, especially with the London setting.

  6. Sounds like a very interesting book, I love a good historic tale!

    Corinne x


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