Reviewed by: Amy
Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars
Everyone knows the story of Juliet and her Romeo. Rachel Caine explores further into the world of Montagues and Capulets with Romeo’s cousin Benvolio taking up the story from his POV. And what of fair Rosaline, the love that Romeo seemingly overthrew for that of Juliet? Well, she piques the interest of Benvolio, our Prince of Shadows, and together they must try to stop the doom that has labeled both families as victims before everyone, including themselves, suffers.
Benvolio, a seemingly Robin Hood-type character stealing from those whom he deems have done wrong, has been told his entire life that he is the ‘extra’ Montague. His job is basically to watch after Romeo, the true heir to Montague. It was an interesting choice I believe for Caine to basically call out how often dimwitted and impulsive Romeo could be from the eyes of his (one year senior) more mature older cousin. There are many people who romanticize the love story of Romeo and Juliet when in truth they were two almost-children. The same can be said for Rosaline being Juliet’s more serious mature cousin, sister of the Prince of Cats Tybalt. Ben and Rosaline seem to take up the voice of reason where the warring families are concerned. Both ultimately want peace after seeing so much death and deception already between the houses.
What Caine did really well with this story is she fleshed out some of the characters, such as Mercutio, who already commanded attention in the original play, but we find him here a troubled and haunted young man who seeks revenge upon those responsible for his lover’s death. This also gives background to Mercutio’s famous “a plague on both your houses” quote. We get to fully understand the buildup of that moment, where this curse stems from and the magical belief that gives the curse its life. It’s really interesting thinking back to the original story with this new perspective in mind.
Prince of Shadoes does mix in some more memorable quotes and scenes from the original play (“Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?”). I found this delightful and it gave a viewpoint as to where we were in conjunction with the original story, of which I oftentimes found Prince of Shadows to drag a little in places. Where it falters is that her words don’t always necessarily match up in phrase and use to that of the great Bard. So at times the writing seems to flow very well and eloquently and other times it shows signs of the modern era in which it was written.
Knowing the story of Romeo and Juliet, Prince of Shadows cannot help but have moroseness hanging over it. Yet while reading, you keep holding on to hope that maybe Caine would change the ending. Regardless of what happens you are still left with a lot of senseless death and destruction, but it’s kind of the lesson of the story right? See these senseless acts and mourn them, but learn from them and grow and make things better. We, at least, are left with that last bit of hope for the future.
Sexual content: kissing, references to sex