Book Review: Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

princeofshadowsA thrilling retelling of the star-crossed tale of Romeo and Juliet, from the New York Times bestselling author of the Morganville Vampires series.

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

This is a retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story, but in text and from the Point of View of Benvolio, Romeo’s cousin.

Romeo makes the occasional appearance, as is appropriate for the young heir, still living in his father’s house.

Juliet makes two appearances, one at the famous party, where she meets Romeo for the first time, and one later where her behaviour is already cause for concern and puts her betrothal to Paris at risk.

Caine makes good use of the spaces left in Benvolio’s appearances during R&J and portrays the secondary characters well. The set pieces (such as the fight between Tybalt, Mercutio and Romeo that leads to the death of two and the banishment of the third) are handled well and add further dimensions to the original.

Benvolio has developed a skill as a cat burglar, which allows him to be places and see things that forward the story that wouldn’t have progressed otherwise. Because this is a time without phones, but with paid thugs roaming the streets, there are plenty of fights, but news travels slowly and often through rumour before fact.

Benvolio’s sister is used as an example where women are there to be “traded” in marriage for political means. Men are there to protect the family honour, which means protecting the heir as necessary and progressing the line where necessary – the further away from the heir, the more “disposable” your life is.

In summary: an enjoyable story, that is easy to read, where it is not necessary to know the original text (though it does help to understand the context of some of the set pieces).

When was the  last time you read (or watched) Romeo and Juilet? Did you wonder what happened in the spaces in between?

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