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Title: Prince of Shadows
Author: Rachel Caine
Publisher: New American Library (NAL), 2014
Genre: YA Historical Fiction, YA Retellings
Though not seemingly a hefty book (at 351 pages), the book is densely written in prose reminiscent of Shakespeare. Most books only take me a day to read, and if interrupted, two days max. This book took me three days because of the heavy prose. And what makes me pleased about this is that it’s a YA book! This book could be read by adults! I feel that this book needs to be read by someone with a sharp attention span…because it is well worth the time invested into reading it.
Essentially, this is a Retellings of Romeo and Juliet told from Benvolio’s POV, which is a fresh change. We see the madness of love from his eyes as his cousin Romeo acts foolishly after seeing Juliet at a party…and after writing love poetry to the convent-bound Rosaline for weeks before he meets Juliet. Mercutio plays a heavy role in this: after seeing his lover hanged (yes, in this version Mercutio loves Tomasso, a young man of the Parrish), he places a curse on both Capulet and Montague, though the Montague curse was accidental. I can’t go more into the story without ruining it, but we see that Benvolio is solely responsible for Romeo, the Montague heir, and while pulling him from one Capulet (Rosaline), Romeo is instead thrust to another (Juliet), and thereby starts a chain of events that brings the Bard’s original tale to life. What we witness as well is Benvolio acting as the Prince of Shadows, a thief writing wrongs for those who cannot help themselves, and Benvolio accidentally stumbles onto Rosaline…and from there, another Montague and Capulet are pulled toward each other.
Is it Classroom-Appropriate?
Totally. This could be a companion to Shakespeare’s version, or a text to use during a Shakespeare study. I’d like to think this could be used in lieu of the traditional story: it has all the elements, is written with quotes directly from the original play, but keeps the audience cautioned against the hasty love instead of seeing it as romantic doomed love. I think it coveys the true spirit of Shakespeare; many read the play and find the joint suicide romantic…but was it meant to be so? Caine tells the same tale, but shows us a real, developed love over a fevered passionate one that cannot be true. Caine shows us the folly of Romeo & Juliet when interpreted by youth.
I would say Freshman level English and up. Quality writing, but it might be too cumbersome for a younger reader to get through. And it definitely will appeal to an older audience as well. I think Shakespeare fans will appreciate the justice done to the original play.
★★★★★. A thrilling read. Patience is required. Time is required. But I will use this in any Shakespeare unit in the classroom. Caine is a brilliant writer and did her Shakespeare homework. Instead of a sad tale, this one is much brighter and colorful. I recommend to all teachers!! And, of course, all fans of well-written YA.