Book Review: Prince of Shadows
By: Rachel Caine
Published By: NAL
Publication Date: February 2014
Page Count: 368
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fiction, Shakespeare Inspired
Romeo and Juliet has long been one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, second only to Hamlet. There was something so beautiful about the love between the star crossed pair that it haunted me from the moment I first read the play. My preoccupation with the doomed pair was only increased when I saw the Leonardo DiCaprio/Claire Danes film. Never in my youthful mind did I pause to consider how these two could be so consumed by love so quickly. It all seemed to make since to my younger self, but as an adult I feel like Shakespeare has committed the reading foul of instalove. While I don't let me adult nature derail my love for the story, I am so glad I first experienced it with my youthful optimism rather than my guarded adult nature. With all that being said, I was excited to spend some time in Rachel Caine's reimagining of this classic tale.
While this is marketed as a "novel of Romeo and Juliet" that isn't an entirely accurate statement. Yes, Romeo and Juliet are characters in this one, but they are minor ones. The story truly revolves around Benvolio, Romeo's cousin. At first, I was saddened by this as I have a soft spot for Romeo, but eventually I grew to enjoy Caine's choice of narrator. Prince of Shadows is written in a way that we get to see the behind the scenes of the well known play. Benvolio is a witness to the whirlwind romance between Romeo and Juliet; he offers up a plausible explanation for the emotional tempest which satisfied my instalove eye roll and made for a compelling twist. Benvolio doesn't play a large role in the original so it was interesting to have him drive the story rather than one of the characters everyone knows well.
The timeline of events is largely the same, but the motivations behind the scenes were altered from time to time. Mercutio also takes a larger role in this one than the original. His anger and grief will be the driving force behind much of the tragedy. This version of Mercutio clawed at my heart; he was such a broken and bitter man. I also found the role of Rosaline to be greatly enhanced in this version. I found myself rooting for her throughout the novel. She is not just the object of Romeo's crush, but rather she becomes a strong and intelligent young woman with her own goals and motivations.
All in all, I was highly entertained by Caine's spin on the age old favorite. Her spin on things added intrigue and provided explanation for things not explored in the play. I also couldn't help thinking about the conflict between the Capulets and the Montagues in light of recent current events. It saddens me that in Shakespeare day people hated one another for the lottery of birth - nobody chose to be born a Capulet or a Montague. Why do we continue to allow irrational hate to exist in our modern society? I can only hope that one day people will choose to not harbor hate towards others who are different in their hearts.
One Last Gripe: This one felt really slow in the beginning. It was around the 50% mark when I was well and fully hooked.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: the mystical elements
First Sentence: I stood in the dark corner of my enemy's house, and thought of murder.
Favorite Character: Benvolio
Least Favorite Character: Veronica
A thrilling retelling of the star-crossed tale of Romeo and Juliet, from the New York Times bestselling author of the Morganville Vampires series.
In the Houses of Montague and Capulet, there is only one goal: power. The boys are born to fight and die for honor and—if they survive—marry for influence and money, not love. The girls are assets, to be spent wisely. Their wishes are of no import. Their fates are written on the day they are born.
Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona—and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona…
…And will rewrite all their fates, forever.