One of my favorite things as a book junkie is discovering new authors to feed my habit. In my bookseller days, this discovery happened in talking to customers and shelving new arrivals, which usually meant all of my bookseller income was fed directly back into the store in purchases. Nicole Galland was a bookseller discovery of mine back in 2006 when Revenge of the Rose was released.
Revenge was fantastic. A truly fun and amusing historical read that made Galland a stand out for me. So when the opportunity to review I, Iago came along, I jumped!
Anyone familiar with Othello will know Iago as the antagonist. He devises a plan of revenge after being slighted by Othello, his general and friend. In the end Othello's wife, Desdemona, is dead at Othello's hand. Iago's wife, Emilia, is dead at Iago's hand. Iago murders his childhood friend, Roderigo, and Othello commits suicide. But what led up to the event? What in Iago's past has made him the man who causes all of this grief? That is the Iago Galland presents in her latest.
Iago pretty much goes with the flow throughout the book. He wants to be in the Navy, his father sends him to artillery school instead. After rising to the top and making a name for himself, Iago's father then uses him to gain support by sending him to join the Army. Not Iago's plan, but he again goes along with his father's wishes and again rises to the top earning an ensign rank early on. At one point Iago tells his wife Emilia that his own merit will get him ahead. And he is wrong. When the lieutenant position opens up, everyone -- including Iago -- believes that Iago is the logical choice. Instead, Cassio is elevated in rank and Iago remains ensign. And this is Iago's breaking point.
Galland's Iago is manipulative and conniving. He's clever but he's also prone to childish jealousy and his own imagination gets him into trouble -- you know the saying about assuming? Iago does a lot of assuming. I'd say that his plan for revenge against Othello is not completely undeserved. Othello is his friend and relies so heavily on Iago's council that when the general passes him up for promotion without any explanation, Iago's anger seems somewhat justified. His plan gets a little out of control and then a lot out of control before the end of the story.
Having read Galland before, I knew that she would be a worthy one to take on Shakespeare. After all, Shakespeare's work is filled with social commentary and sarcasm through comments that can be taken multiple ways. Galland has mastered this same skill and so tackling Othello's villain, while a task for any writer, seems a little easier for Galland. An ease that ultimately makes I, Iago a highly entertaining read. Galland's writing is smart and her tone is light throughout most of the read. Iago's banter is particularly amusing, especially when he uses his smarts to outwit others.
Like Revenge of the Rose, I, Iago is a fun read. You don't have to be a Shakespearean scholar to enjoy it -- in fact, you don't have to have any prior knowledge of Othello at all. I, Iago is a complete tale all on its very own.
For more on Galland, I, Iago, and her other works, you can visit her official blog here. You can also "like" Galland on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.