Published: February 4th, 2014
Prince Of Shadows
By: Rachel Caine
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 in 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.
Retellings are something that I love to try, because I hate to see a good story end. As a younger person I was NOT a fan of Romeo + Juliet, thinking that they were beyond stupid and I couldn't understand why people romanticized their story. But as an adult I look at them and think, "Those poor, stupid teenagers. That's not what love is and they never had a chance to figure that out." I was intrigued when I learned that Rachel Caine, whose Morganville Vampire series I happen to love, was writing a R&J retelling from Benvolio's point of view I was excited. I am definitely happy that I gave it a chance! In this book, set months before the events of the infamous Shakespeare play, Benvolio is chafing at the bit of family responsibility. His rebellion is to be the greatest thief Verona has ever known, the Prince of Shadows, and humilate all of his enemies. One night, he decides to attempt a truly deadly theft and steal from Tybalt Capulet. While in the Capulet household, Benvolio is seen by Rosaline and the interaction between the two promises that things will never again be the same. Then Benvolio's domineering Grandmother orders him to retrieve Romeo's love letters to Rosaline, and stop his infatuation. All this while Benvolio is trying to hide Mercutio's love affair with another man from everyone, for fear of his friend being put to death. When everything comes crashing down around them, will both Montagues and Capulets be cursed beyond redemption? Or will Benvolio and Rosaline be able to bring themselves out of destruction and start over again?
The majority of this book was set before the events of the original play, which in and of itself was different than the majority of retellings. Most of them seem to be set during and in the aftermath. But this book chose to give readers a backstory and some reasoning for the whole disastrous sequence of events. I love Benvolio as a narrator! It was wonderful to get his side of the story, since in the play he's basically just Romeo's right-hand man. I also liked seeing Rosaline as more than just a mere mention and learning a bit more of who she actually was. In this version, she is strong, feisty and makes up her own mind. But she is also a practical realist. Rosaline just wants to go to the convent and be away from the whole mess between the Capulets and Montagues - and away from her brother Tybalt's rage and heavy hand. Probably my absolute favorite thing about this retelling though, was the focus on Mercutio, his story and the reasons for his behavior, etc. I loved the relationship between him, Romeo and Benvolio (both of whom are keeping Mercutio's secrets). They has some great quips and banter going on, and the scenes with Romeo and Mercutio creating drunken diversions for Benvolio's thieving were hilarious.
I think the only thing that seemed abrupt and out of place were the random inclusions of Shakespeare's dialogue, sometimes slightly butchered, and the inclusion of witchcraft and curses. The book has a decidedly modern feel to it, and though witchcraft was often in Shakespeare's plays and it was a plausible explanation for the whole mess, it still felt kind of odd and out of place in this particular book. Overall though, this was definitely a great read for fans of R&J, but not necessarily the actual characters of Romeo and Juliet. They are both shown to be what they were in this book: thoughtless, dreamy children with a penchant for leaping before they looked. I would recommend this one though. It was definitely worth my time.
VERDICT: 4/5 Stars
**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**