Cauldron’s Bubble is the first book in the Netherfeld Trilogy by Amber Elby. I got all three as a box set from the publishers via NetGalley, and I’m very grateful to them all.

The premise, as indicated in the blurb, fascinated me. I’m planning to read the rest within the next four months or so. I just persist in calling it Netherfield. That is a location in the Archers radio serial, which is even older than me!

Cauldron’s Bubble (Netherfeld Trilogy #1)

by Amber Elby

cauldron's bubble

A magical bubble transports Alda through time and place to a realm of witches and curses, pirates and princes, and the lost worlds of Shakespeare. She, along with a cabin boy called Dreng, must navigate the conflicts and characters of Macbeth, Hamlet, and The Tempest. But will they escape with their lives? Or will they become lost and forgotten?

Imagine that Shakespeare’s characters could interact off-stage and that their adventures could span beyond the bounds of the Bard’s fiction: Hamlet deviously escapes from pirates who capture him on his way to England; Macbeth’s witches perform their magic on unsuspecting victims; and a shadowy figure awakes from the backstory of The Tempest.

These stories and more come to life in Cauldron’s Bubble as readers explore the worlds of Shakespeare’s plays with an orphan girl named Alda and a cabin boy called Dreng, who each search for something lost. 

Alda discovers a magical bubble that transports her to witches on a moor. Dreng, meanwhile, saves a prince. They are finally united on an enchanted island, where Alda is on a quest to free a magical being, and Dreng is smitten with a mysterious young woman. Ultimately, Alda must find power she gained in a forgotten realm to defeat a dreadful summoner, and Dreng must awaken to the realities around him before they are both consumed by magic.

Shakespeare experts and curious newcomers alike will enjoy these original adventures. [goodreads]

My Review

‘Curious newcomer’ is probably my category, although with the degree of familiar phrases, maybe I’m in the ‘Shakespeare journeyman’ class.

This starts with Alda having various pseudo-time-travel experiences. First she watches, then encounters, Dreng from the rigging on a ship. She does the same to herself at home, at an earlier time. We also see Dreng’s point of view on these other-worldly encounters. That adds to the general sailors’ view that he’s a bit strange. So we have the usual start of a confused young person trying to find out what’s going on, being given a token, which helps her to find her way to someone who might have some answers. Macbeth’s witches were never very clear on answers, and they are no different here.

One of the strengths of this book is the characterisation of people who may be familiar to you from the Shakespearian play they’ve escaped from. The witches’ discussions are not just perfect examples. For anyone who did Macbeth at school (my O level text), the witches will please you no end. Especially if you thought they and Lady Macbeth were the best things in it. So they are here. (Actually Sean Bean as Macbeth was pretty good on stage, too.)

Cauldron’s Bubble then whisks you off into the Tempest, which was not my favourite by a long chalk. So perhaps I am not the right person to enjoy this take on what happened behind the scenes on Prospero’s island. It’s an enjoyable fantasy mystery, but apart from the novelty of the Shakespearian combo, it’s not that special. Good props, good twists, and nothing to get upset about. Although some might take exception to the In Between world where Alda grows older and learns lots of useful stuff, but she doesn’t know it in the ‘real world’ until she comes to use it. An excuse for a deus ex machina, methinks.

The next one is Hamlet (yawn) although I did enjoy Rozencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead, so I might enjoy this take on it, and the third book is Macbeth. So I’m giving them all a go. Cauldron’s Bubble was not the most gripping of reads, though.

Book Review | Cauldron’s Bubble (Netherfeld Trilogy #1)
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