Monday, February 24, 2014

REVIEW: "Prince of Shadows" by Rachel Caine

Prince of Shadows: A Novel of Romeo and Juliet
Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine
For Ages 14+ (language, violence)
Young Adult -- Historical
NAL -- February 4, 2014
Ebook, 368 pages
Received from Edelweiss

Male Narrator, Shakespearean Retelling, Stand-Alone

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.

"I stood in the dark corner of my enemy's house and thought of murder."

I have heard great things about Rachel Caine's writing and am planning on trying her popular Morganville Vampires very soon.  But, I decided to try out her style by reading her newest release, Prince of Shadows.  This is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet from the point of view of Romeo's cousin, Benvolio Montague.  This was not a perfect book, but I found it to be really interesting and it definitely kept my attention.

Benvolio Montague, for those not familiar with the Shakespearean play, is Romeo's calmer cousin.  He is considered the responsible one among his family which makes it even more interesting that he has a double life.  As the Prince of Shadows, Benvolio goes through Verona and steals from his family's greatest enemies, the Capulets.  I liked Benvolio's personality and how the author developed him from such a stock character in the original play.  He was used as a balance compared to such hot-headed and not so intelligent characters like Romeo and Tybalt.

The hardest part about reading this book was the fact that it was really hard to like most of the characters.  Romeo and Juliet is a fascinating play to me because of the lack of sympathetic characters (to me, at least) and I was glad that Rachel Caine kept that aspect in this book.  Almost everyone had a major flaw that helped shape their ultimate destiny whether it was Romeo's temper, Tybalt's cruelty, Juliet's naivete, or Mercutio's sarcastic nature.  For me, the two most intriguing characters in Prince of Shadows are Mercutio, whose cynical views on romance are explained through an ill-fated love affair, and Rosaline, who served as Benvolio's convent-bound love interest.

In terms of plot, I thought the first half of the book was really slow-going.  Caine was having to introduce all the characters (original and new) and explain the complex relationships between them.  She definitely makes a go at providing detailed evidence of the feud between the Capulets and Montagues though it takes quite a few pages to do so.  The second half really picks up in terms of action and romance and it kept me reading later into the night than I originally expected.  I just wish that pacing had been present the entire time.

Overall, I came out of reading Prince of Shadows being interested in Rachel Caine's writing style and enjoying her original retelling of such a classic story.  I always love it when an author takes a minor character and devotes time explaining their thought processes and how they end up where they are by the end.  I just wish the pacing hadn't been so slow at the beginning and that I could have had more sympathy with some of the other characters.

I received a free e-ARC of this book from NAL via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Blush -- Kisses with no/minor touching.

"Madness or love, done is done, and this is very thoroughly done.  Whatever passes now is beyond our ability to change."


1 comment:

  1. Hmm. I'm not a real big fan of Romeo & Juliet. Like you said, I'm not really in love with any of the characters, and that's usually a deal breaker for me. So I've not really had success in reading any kind of retelling.

    I am curious about Rachel Caine though. I've also heard good things about her Morganville Vampires series.


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