Friday, 6 March 2015

Time to Review the Evidence - Prince of Shadows

Rachel Caine Prince of Shadows
Title: Prince of Shadows
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: YA, Historical fiction, Romance

A few starting notes:

A historically-set piece of YA from Rachel Caine (author of the Morganville vampire series) which had me intrigued but weary before reading. Could it live up to the strength of its premise?


Ok, so we've all heard of Romeo and Juliet - those doomed Shakespearean lovers from fair Verona. This takes the original play and runs with it, focussing on characters who see relatively little or no stage time in the Shakespearean version - Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, and Rosaline (here made a cousin to Juliet to make the plot more fitting.) Benvolio has secrets of his own, stalking the night as the infamous thief the Prince of Shadows, and despite his best efforts, developing a bit of a thing for Rosaline Capulet. And then a curse starts to set in and things get interesting!

Best bits:

The paranormal aspects of this are never overdone - subtle and in-keeping with both the plot and the tone of the novel. It's not overt, and hits just the right note. 

The writing flows well (I know it sounds like a bit of a standard review phrase but good quality writing really should be acknowledged,) and Caine imbues the whole book with the passion of both her own plot and the original play. Her Verona has a dream-like feel to it - a world of extremes filled with beauty and horror - and we stay very firmly in the period setting of swords and nobles.

The characters are vivid, their pains and pleasures believable, and Benvolio (our eloquent narrator for the majority of the novel) is charming enough to keep you reading - which of course is an excellent quality to have in a narrator.

Not so great bits:

Caine's attempts to incorporate Shakespearean language and dialogue occasionally jar the reader - this isn't her fault exactly, it's just that Shakespeare's tone is so different from her own voice that it's sometimes noticeable when she's tried to force a merger of the two.

I also didn't find the character of the Montague grandmother all that believable - are you telling me that this world you've tried to convince is so chauvinistic allows a shrivelled and spiteful old matriarch to tell lords what to do? Maybe it's a personal thing, but, although she certainly moved the plot along, she annoyed the hell out of me.


A couple of minus points aside, this kept me engaged and lived up to its promise - I love things that look into other character's points of view and this managed to follow through where a weaker writer may have floundered and failed. I thoroughly enjoyed it - and it wasn't too smushy and kissy kissy either, making it all the more believable. Anyone who enjoys well-written young adult fiction could do worse than to give this a go.

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