Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Review: Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

Prince of Shadows by Rachel CainePrince of Shadows by Rachel Caine (review copy) - 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.
From Goodreads

The original draw of this book for me was Rachel Caine. I loved her Morganville Vampires series, and I plan to read every book by her. But this retelling of Romeo and Juliet didn't really appeal to me itself. I'm not much of a historical fan, and I have always struggled with Shakespeare. But it's written by Caine, and so of course I had to give it a go. And it was absolutely incredible.

The story of Romeo and Juliet is a well loved tragedy. With Prince of Shadows, Caine gives us the same story from the point of view of Benvolio, cousin of Romeo, and has more to share about the tale of the two star-crossed lovers. Before Romeo and Juliet, there were three friends; Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio. Three friends as close as brothers, who each have their own stories, stories that intertwine and cause a ripple of catastrophic events, leading to the inevitable conclusion. Romeo and Juliet is just one story, just one tragedy. There are many more.

Oh my god! This book is amazing! So many layers! When you reach the end, and you have the conclusion, the tragic end we all know is coming, you can then look over what you've read and peal back the layers, seeing what lead to what. Romeo and Juliet's ill-fated romance was because of one thing, which was because of another, and so on. There is a huge butterfly effect of choices, decisions and actions that lead us to the story we know. It's so well thought out! And I imagine it was such fun for Caine; we as readers start fromt he beginning, and we don't see, can't exactly predict exactly why things will take place as they do, and yet Caine would have had to start from the original story, and go backwards. Why? An explanation. Why to that? Another explaination. And again, so on. Or at least that's how I imagine her working through the story. It's so detailed, so intricate, yet still in the vein of Shakespeare - passionate, emotional, and beautiful. Prince of Shadows is not a bastardisation of Romeo and Juliet, it's a nod to Shakespeare, a thank you, and a tribute. It's intriguing, and such a page turner! And the politics and romance of the characters Shakespeare created is just so fascinating, and completely wonderful!

Something I was not expecting but was hugely happy to discover was the LGBTQ element to the story. Mercutio is gay. In a time when acting on such feelings is punishable by death. This is not some small element. Mercutio's sexuality is huge to the overall plot. He has his story, his story effects the others. It doesn't feel like a plot device, though. That's just who Mercutio is, and his story has it's beautiful, passionate, even blissful moments. Benvolio narrates, so we don't see Mercutio with his secret partner - as of course, for the time, every moment they spent together must be kept secret - but we see Mercutio; we see him talk about his partner, his mood after being with him. Mercutio is generally an incredible character, he is all about fun and laughter, but seeing him when his partner is on his mind, he really, really shines. It was a wonderful element, but also informative. The opinions of society at the time was a little shocking. I was aware things wouldn't have been accepted at the time, but the degree of disgust and malice in some people was just unbelievable. You cannot help but feel so desperately sorry for Mercutio and the life he has to live. For all it's beautiful moments, it's also heartbreaking. So beautiful!

Hello, accessible Shakespeare! It doesn't stick to the original play religiously, there are a few things that are different, and a completely "fictionalised" (because the play is fiction itself!) background of events that lead up to the meeting between Romeo and Juliet, but I was so surprised with how well it did stick to the original! As I've said, I struggle with Shakespeare; unless I have a translation, I have trouble understanding what I'm reading - and I've never read a translated version of Romeo and Juliet. However, I was curious to see if certain elements of the story were actually in the original, and I had an unopened copy of the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes. So during my reading - yesterday, actually - I watched the DVD. Not only does the book stay truer to the original than I thought it would, but it actually, in places, has conversations from the play happen in the book word for word. I recognised things said in the movie as I was struggling to understand what was being said. The awesomeness of Prince of Shadows is that with this being a story and not a play, we see inside Benvolio's head, his thoughts and feelings, and this gives an understandable context to the dialogue. In those sections, I understood exactly what was being said in the movie. And it's like this all the way through, sprinklings here and there when Benvolio's story syncs with what you see in Romeo and Juliet, the real dialogue. I have never understood this story as much as I have when reading Prince of Shadows. Even with the language; although not quite Shakespearean, it isn't modern English, but still completely understandable and really beautiful once you get used to it.

An incredible, beautiful and deeply moving story, Prince of Shadows is such a fantastic retelling! I really can't praise this story enough, or thank Caine enough for bringing sense to a story I've had such difficulty with. I love this book so much, I so hope Caine will consider doing similar with Shakespeare's other plays. I would love to have Caine help me understand those stories too, along with her amazing storytelling.

Thank you to Allison and Busby for the review copy.

LGBT+ April

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Published: 4th February 2014
Publisher: Allison and Busby
Rachel Caine's Website

6 comments:

  1. I actually bought this book a couple weeks ago but it's just sitting on my shelf... with me admiring it's cover in regular intervals but your review makes me want to stop sitting around and dive into the wonder that is this book. All I know about Romeo and Juliet is that they both die in the end.. that's basically the extent of my knowledge but this book sounds like it's is so intricate with it's details and Caine really does take her time to build her plot and nothing appeals to me like a good plot.

    WONDERFUL review.

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

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    1. Thank you! And Thank you for the awesome comment! I knew very little about tome R&J story. They fell in love, they were from opposing families, they died. And Romeo was into someone else at first. Otherwise, I had no clue, really, because I never really got Shakespeare. But this story makes everything so clear and understandable! And Benvolio is such a great character! And I loved Mercutio, he is just amazing! I loved him straight away, and then really felt for him. Fantastic book!

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  2. I couldn't get into this. I really struggled with the characters and I was gutted as you know how much I love Rachel Caine!

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    1. Oh no! Oh, that really sucks! Caine is awesome, most of the time! That's such a shame. It is really different to her other YA, and it did take a while to get used to, but I really did fall in love with the story. Romeo wasn't my favourite character, but I don't think he's meant to be. I loved it! :)

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  3. Very interesting. I was expecting it to be Benvolio's life that was the focus, and I have to say I like that it's a different angle instead a lot more. Well done on What's In A Name!

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    1. His life is the focus too. It focuses on all three of them. But Mercutio's life plays a huge part too. It's SO good, though!

      Thank you!

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