Title: Prince of Shadows
Author: Rachel Caine
Acquired Via: First to Read
Release Date: February 4, 2014
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 requested this book because it was written by Rachel Caine and looked like historical fiction. I really wish I would have read the blurb before I requested it. I didn’t realize that it was a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. If I had, I would not have requested it. I don’t consider Romeo and Juliet romantic; I think they were idiots. Apart from my initial struggle and dread at the beginning of the book, I enjoyed the book for the most part.
I liked that Caine used the original characters from Romeo and Juliet, but focused on one of the side characters, Benvolio, as the main character. I don't think I would have liked the book as much if Romeo, or some reincarnation of him, had been the main character. Benvolio was an interesting character, seemingly responsible, at least more responsible than his cousin Romeo, of whom he was charged with ensuring good behavior. Benvolio was also reckless, foolish and impulsive, in his anger, his thieving and his love of Rosaline. He was really likable, and I found myself feeling sorry for him and the situation he had been put in by his grandmother, Romeo, his family and his friends. But while Benvolio was interesting some of the other characters were less compelling. I never understood the “love” of Rosaline, both from Benvolio and Romeo; we were mostly told of her great characteristics by Benvolio rather than shown by her own actions. Benvolio’s sister was pretty one-dimensional. She does hateful things with pretty much no rhyme or reason except because she could. I like a little more gray in my characters, than true black and white/ evil vs. good lines being drawn.
I found myself bored at times, especially during the beginning and into the middle. It seemed that there was mostly just a lot of feuding between the Capulets and Montagues with no plot progression. About a little more than halfway through the novel, the plot began unfurling at a faster pace and was much more interesting. Some of this may be attributed to the fact that Caine kept closely to Shakespeare’s original work, and I have already admitted my lack of enjoyment of it. There were some things that were not apart of Shakespeare's work that I thought Caine did very well, like Mercutio and his lover. However, I have trouble deciding whether I like how Mercutio's story played out, especially the curse and the events leading up to the ending. I also felt like the ending was a little abrupt and a little too convenient.
However, Caine’s writing was beautiful and a lot of the dialogue felt true to the time period. It was apparent that Caine did a lot of research of Italy in the time period, in her writing and her descriptions of Verona and its people. Caine’s writing really rescues a book that to me might have otherwise been unenjoyable.
So, while I’m not a fan of Romeo and Juliet , I did enjoy this retelling. It is a testament to Caine’s skills as an author that I would enjoy a retelling of Romeo and Juliet so much that I considered (and rejected) reading the original. I would be interested in hearing what fans of Romeo and Juliet felt about The Prince of Shadows.
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To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher via First to Read in exchange for an honest review.