Review Blog

May 30 2014

Prince of shadows by Rachel Caine

cover image

Michael Joseph, 2014. ISBN: 9781921901881.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Such is the skill of Rachel Caine in recreating the life and times of Verona that the reader can't help but believe this is a true account of the back-story to Romeo and Juliet.
In this adventure, the hero is Benvolio, the Prince of Shadows (the greatest thief in Verona) who gives his own account of the events that surround the well-loved Shakespearean Tragedy. Caine stays true to the details of the play but cleverly interweaves other stories and introduces other characters while also providing insights into minds and hearts of the ones we know so well.
Women, in this novel, show spirit, power and intelligence, as Benvolio states, 'In their own way the girls of noble families were soldiers - merely armed with different weapons'. p95. Benvolio's grandmother rules her household with an iron fist, in fact she is referred to as 'the iron lady'. Veronica, his sister, is definitely no blushing damsel, and is not afraid to wield her power, though not always for good. But it is Rosaline, with her calm and sensible approach, who gains the respect of the reader and as it transpires that of Benvolio also.
As in the play, violence abounds in this story as the Capulets and Montagues continue to battle out their feud on the streets of Verona. Tybalt is still a violent and dislikeable character who even takes out his temper on his sister, Rosaline - something neither the reader nor Benvolio can forgive. Mercutio, at least at the beginning, is the lovable rogue but his sexual preferences are a portent for tragedy. Balthasar continues as the loyal and trusted servant, who always has his master's back, whether that be in the form of the noble Montague or the Prince of Shadows.
Caine provides an interesting twist to Mercutio's dying words, 'a curse on both your houses' providing both an unexpected twist for the reader and a last challenge for Benvolio.
Prince of Shadows incorporates enough Shakespearean expression, even with some reference to other plays, to add authenticity to this satisfying tale.
Barb Rye

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