Rachel Cain is a YA/NA writer that most will associate with her popular series of books, The Morganville Vampires. (Of course, Cain has written many other works, however these are her most famous.) I have not yet read any of her other books be they Morganville Vampires or another series, which means that I got the opportunity to read her stand-alone retelling of Romeo and Juliet without having anything that could potentially alter my opinion. Also, it's been more than fifteen years since I last studied Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (in high school,) so I would have undoubtedly forgotten a number of the subtleties that exist within the story. Both of these things combined meant that I had the chance to read this one purely for pleasure and not as a critic. And, you know, sometimes that can be fun and the best way to let the story wash over you.
In this retelling, we have a narrator, none of than Benvolio Montague, cousin of Romeo. In many way, this time around it is his story being told and that of his own forbidden love--that for none other than Rosaline, the cousin of Juliet who initially had Romeo's heart. In this version Romeo is a bit of a romantic fool and is shown on several occasions to be lacking any kind of common sense. Benvolio, meanwhile, has been saddled with the job of babysitting his younger cousin (and heir to the Montague fortune,) thanks his controlling grandmother. Meanwhile, Benvolio finds solace in his nighttime 'career' as a thief know throughout Verona as the Prince of Shadows. It is during one of his jaunts as the Prince of Shadows that he breaks inside the Capulet household and meets Rosaline. In Cain's interpretation Roseline is an intelligent, bookish young woman who is bound for a convent, because the Capulets think that they have no hope of marrying her off. Benvolio figures he has no hope and the pair spend most of the novel trying to ignore their feelings for one another and trying to sort out the increasing troubles between their families--the perfect role for Benvolio, as he is shown to be the peacemaker in Romeo and Juliet. Roseline, meanwhile, comes with more of a clean slate, as she is an unseen character in the play. All we know of her is that she objects to Romeos advances. So in her, Cain has a character that she can take as many liberties as she wishes. It's also interesting to read why Cain thinks that Mercutio may have called for, "A plague upon both your houses," but that is a plot best discovered by the reader, so I will not be revealing any details here.
Of course, the inevitable deaths of Romeo and Juliet occur and then Cain gets to have the fun of telling us what happened afterward. And, again, revealing that would be be a great disservice to the reader. So I'll just say this. Although the ending feels a little rushed, it is a fitting one. Prince of Shadows is an entertaining and decently written YA retelling of Romeo and Juliet that brings a number of minor characters to life. Recommended.
This book was read as part of the Eclectic Reader Challenge
Category: Published in 2014
Progress so Far: 2/12