An ARC of this title was provided to me by the publisher, NAL - Penguin, in exchange for an honest review.
Actual Rating: 4.5 stars
"Was this love, to betray one's family, and defy certain death?" Loc 3316
So when I saw this book was a retelling of Shakespeare's tragic romance, Romeo and Juliet, I was intrigued. Then I read the blurb and discovered it was told through Romeo's cousin, Benvolio's perspective and that he was also the "Prince of Shadows." Told with the amazing backdrop of Shakespearean Vienna, I knew that this could be a hit or miss. Retellings are hard to do well, I think. Usually I stay away from Shespeare retellings-- having read so many failed attempts. But I had to try this out for a few reasons: one, it had many added elements (Prince of shadows, gay couples, etc), two, it's written by Rachel Caine (Morganville vampires), and thirdly, we get away from everything that's now become generic about the Romeo and Juliet love story. These are also a few of the reasons why you should try this book on for size.
I haven't read much of Caine's previous works (only Glass Houses which I enjoyed), so I admit in the beginning it was a little bit difficult to get used to her writing style. I took my time reading the beginning; I think it was hard to get in the groove of things. But once I did, I really loved it. Benvolio is an amazing narrator. He's been raised to be loyal to his family, always he had to be the responsible one. But his alter ego is the Prince of Shadows-- which kind of reminded me of a Robin Hood type character who steals and embarrasses wrongdoers. I found him really charming and I admit I found myself crushing on him a bit. I also just have to say that when an author uses a male protagonist and does it right, especially in young adult, I just *swoon*
This is definitely a book where there's a lot going on. You may go into this thinking, I know the story, doesn't matter who tells it I'm not going to be surprised. Well, you're wrong. You don't know this story. You will be surprised. And, if you're like me, you'll love it.
Was there anything that I didn't like? I guess the only annoyance I really had came at the end. This book doesn't have any supernatural elements to it (which I enjoyed), but at the end there was a tiny bit that kind of came through and I don't really understand why. The story could've done just as well without it, and it didn't add anything. In my view, it took a bit away from it. Besides that I found it kind of confusing.
If you love Shakespeare and if you can appreciate a thoroughly creative retelling, I urge you to pick this up! It's such a unique take; full of mystery, romance, betrayal, revenge, death, and sword fights. Rachel Caine, I bow to you. You've taken the most popular and quoted love story of all time and morphed it into something entirely new while keeping the elements that have allowed the story to resonate for centuries.