Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups
“I stood in the dark corner of my enemy’s house, and thought of murder.”
Well, that was completely unexpected. I decided to read this book because I have an arc of it, because it was Shakespeare, because I was curious, but… I have to confess, I was expecting the worst. For a few reasons: 1) I couldn’t even make it through the first book of the author’s Morganville Vampires series, 2) Well, duh, it’s a Shakespeare retelling, and 3) Romeo and Juliet has always sparked conflicted emotions within me. In terms of language and style, it’s exceptionally beautiful, with the kind of passionate writing that makes you want to throw yourself to the wolves in the name of true love:
“These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die, like fire and powder which, as they kiss, consume.”
“When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars. And he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.”
You can get all caught up in that kind of red hot drama. But, when it comes down to it, the story is really about a pair of angsty, melodramatic teenagers who take instalove to an all new level. I’ve never really bought into the romantic side of Romeo & Juliet, I always found the family politics far more fascinating. So when Caine balanced her romance with a good deal of family dramatics, scandals, betrayals, action, curses and revenge, she actually created something I was always going to love. And her writing style was PERFECT for a Shakespeare retelling.
“A curse for love, cast in my own hand and faith and flesh. A curse of love, on the house of the guilty. Let them feast on love, as crows feast on the dead. Perhaps I am, after all, mad.”
This book tells a story that runs parallel to the one most of you will be familiar with. Almost everything is happening the same but we see it from a whole new perspective and uncover surprising details. Like the fact that Benvolio is the Prince of Shadows – a Robin Hood-like character who steals from the rich, selfish and greedy – and has his own forbidden love for Juliet’s cousin, Rosaline. Or the fact that Mercutio is secretly in love with a man and his double life threatens to endanger them all. Caine takes all the old characters and develops them in new and exciting ways – I was mesmerized.
“She knew tragedy with an intimacy that was almost obscene.”
Everything about this was just… right for me. It is deliciously romantic, yet hopelessly tragic. It’s dark, yet often funny (especially in the banter between Benvolio, Romeo and Mercutio). But one of my favourite things about the novel could be seen as a negative for some readers and it will all depend on your reaction to the original story. And that is the way Caine portrays Romeo. Not as a self-sacrificing romantic hero, but as an immature, bratty – albeit strangely lovable – boy of sixteen. I have more respect for the way romance and love is portrayed in the story because I don’t have to try and force myself to believe in teen instaobsession. When compared to Romeo and Juliet’s romance, the love between Benvolio and Rosaline seems far more mature and believable, but no less passionate and sexy (more so on the latter).
If you want a beautifully-written, atmospheric retelling that is as menacingly dark as it is sensual and passionate, I really don’t think you need to look any further. I was very pleasantly surprised.
“But I warn you, what pulls them together is nothing a mortal man may battle; it is a holy fire, I tell you, a most holy fire that burns in them.”
“The devil can stoke a fire as well as ever God could.”