King Christian IV tries to jumpstart Denmark’s economy with innovative projects, while fending off recalcitrant nobles, treacherous Swedes, various religious wars, an angry wife, and a majorly upset stomach. The King also loves music, believes it medically necessary for his condition and maintains one of Europe’s finest orchestra, usually secreted in the freezing basement with the casks of wines and the chicken coop. A sophisticated system of pipes carries the music to the courtroom. Young Peter Claire, young English lutenist, joins the King’s orchestra. The King takes a special liking to the angel-faced Peter, needing him at all times to sooth his soul. Peter, however, falls in love (at first sight) with Emilia, unhappy lady-in-waiting to the furious adulterous Kirsten Munk, the king’s morganatic wife. The stories of these characters, along with several others, are told in the rest of Music and Silence.
This book was a pleasure to read, technically impressive as Tremain juggles the different characters and the differing styles of their different perceptions. This book succeeds on many levels – a historical novel in which the reader learns about the history of Denmark and its multitalented king, as a narrative tour de force using many different voices, (which the most entertaining is the embittered hilarious voice of Kirsten Munk) and an exploration of the different variations of love. The narrative voices were spectacular (although the king’s actual music seems entirely orchestral, with no vocalists.)
The only problem, and I’m not sure this is truly a “problem” is that the plot of Music and Silence is the EXACT SAME plot as Tremain's earlier novel Restoration. Restoration with sleighs – the intelligent wounded king, the innocent sidekick feeling deep love and loyalty to the sovereign, the beautiful innocent girl under the King’s protection. This novel was much longer, however. And this one had an emphatically happy ending.