Nathan Fox: Dangerous Times

Written by L. Brittney
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley Ella McNulty (aged 12)

1587. England is on the brink of war. Philip of Spain has vowed to kill Elizabeth and restore Catholicism under his own rule. Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s Spymaster General, has built up a network of secret agents to counteract the threat. His newest recruit is 13-year-old actor, Nathan Fox. Nathan is good at languages, athletic and an acrobat, exactly the skills Walsingham is looking for. He is sent to Robey’s School of Defence to learn the survival skills he will need.

Here, he meets his mentor, John Pearce. Walsingham has a job for them—in Venice. Together with Marie, Nathan’s sister, and disguised as Italian-speaking envoys, they must broker a treaty with Venice against the might of Spain.

But the Doge of Venice has his own agenda, and soon John, Marie and Nathan find themselves accompanying General Othello to Crete to fight the Turks. With them go Othello’s bride, Desdemona, and his trusted officer, Iago. But is Iago all he seems? The more Nathan learns about him, the less he trusts him—and soon he suspects that John and Marie may be in danger as well. The double-dealing and danger will test Nathan’s new skills to the utmost.

This is the first book in L. Brittney’s Nathan Fox adventures. The dangerous underbelly of Elizabethan London is well-drawn and I enjoyed Robey’s school of swordsmanship, dirty tricks and 16th-century spying skills, such as ciphers and cipher-breaking. Shakespeare fans will recognize snippets of Henry IV, Richard II, The Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet, as well as the story of Othello, which is the main strand of the second half of the book.

Not only would this book make a lively introduction to the political complexities of Elizabethan England, young readers will also end up knowing the plot of Othello. For 11 plus. (EH)


This book is mainly adventure and action, something I normally wouldn’t be interested in, but it kept me wanting to read on. The characters like General Othello and Desdemona are detailed and manage to be both surprising and interesting. There is lots of description of weapons and ships but it is not usually unnecessary and doesn’t go on for long. The plot moves pretty fast with quickly changing scenes. There is lots of historical detail and it is an insight into life in Shakespeare’s time. Shakespeare himself is one of the characters, but I think he could have been better characterised. But Shakespeare, Othello, Desdemona and the other characters all fit together very well, and this is one of the things that makes the story good.

I think ages 8 to 12 would enjoy this book. It is good and I would recommend it. (EMcN)