Book Review: Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

Posted July 14, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 6 Comments

Book Review: Prince of Shadows by Rachel CainePrince of Shadows by Rachel Caine
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
Published by NAL Hardcover on January 29, 2014
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library


A thrilling retelling of the star-crossed tale of Romeo and Juliet, from the New York Times bestselling author of the Morganville Vampires series.

In the Houses of Montague and Capulet, there is only one goal: power. The boys are born to fight and die for honor and—if they survive—marry for influence and money, not love. The girls are assets, to be spent wisely. Their wishes are of no import. Their fates are written on the day they are born.

Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona—and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona…

…and will rewrite all their fates, forever.

Also by this author: Daylighters, Kicking It: These Boots are Made for Stalking, Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, Ash and Quill, Killman Creek, Honor Among Thieves, Smoke and Iron, Honor Bound, Honor Lost

This is historical fiction playing off Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but from Romeo’s cousin’s point-of-view — and I’d give it a “7” if the rating system allowed it.

The focus is on Romeo’s cousin, Benvolio, and the woman with whom Romeo first falls in love, Rosaline Capulet.

My Take
Caine has created a beautiful story of three young men and their friendship set against the battlefield that is Verona and the feud in which their family is engaged. I felt every bit of this, and combined with how well Caine created the sense of place and time, well, you will not regret reading this story.

Combined with the rhythm of the words, Caine transports us easily into the time with its foods, clothes, manners, and architecture, beautifully incorporating Shakespeare’s phrases and play of words. I felt as though I were reading a real account of the time, one which Shakespeare took up and dramatized for his play.

It’s so easy to imagine Benvolio as an angry young man who takes to the rooftops of Verona. Sneaking into houses and over balconies to steal and shame his enemies. I do wish Caine had pushed the tension on this just a bit more throughout the story as opposed to only here and there and at the end. I’m surprised the Montagues don’t have more guards on the way to the Church. And  these two complaints are the worst I can say about Prince of Shadows.

I love that Romeo and Benvolio help their friend seek his own happiness. They do make a fun-loving trio! Although, Mercutio’s story will break your heart. He’s such a decent and honorable man, although I can’t say his skills are wasted in his time period, lol. He’s perfect in his wit and his swordplay…if only sodomy had not been so reviled. There’s a bit of the vicious in me, and I do not regret at all what happens to some of the characters in this.

Jesus, with people like Grandmother and Veronica plotting and manipulating, it’s no wonder the feud continues! It’s as if they’re outside the normal bounds of decency, caught up in their soap operas. If anyone is the worse of the two, it’s that grandmother. Her family is so important to her, but she wouldn’t weep to lose one of them? What kind of family is that? Of course the men in this time are even worse. It’s accepted that the women are cloistered and beaten, even killed and secretly buried if they “misbehave”. The threats they make to Benvolio’s mother… Those few paragraphs in which Rosaline lectures Benvolio on how safe it is to be a woman are terrifying in their truth, even more frightening than her conclusion about the curse Mercutio has laid.

The Story
That Romeo is penning verse again. Worse? It’s to the family’s arch-enemy, a Capulet. Grandmother insists that Benvolio retrieve those poems, for it would never do for a Montague to be caught and humiliated by a Capulet!

It’s a party at House Capulet which the three invade that Romeo meets Juliet, and all thought of Rosaline is cast aside. Truly it is a curse of love.

The Characters
Benvolio Montague is a year older than Romeo, and Grandmother seems to believe he is so much wiser. The Prince of Shadows is his alter ego, his escape from the constricted life he leads as a minor Montague. Balthasar is his manservant. Romeo, a frivolous boy in spite of his upbringing, is his cousin and the heir to the House of Montague.

Mercutio Ordelaffi is Benvolio and Romeo’s best friend as well even though his house is more aligned with the Capulets. He’s brilliant with the sword, an excellent keeper of secrets, and gay in every sense — and it’ll lead to great troubles. Elias is his manservant. Tomasso is his lover and destined for the Church.  His father, Lord Ordelaffi, is more concerned with appearance, as are most of Verona.

The House of Montague
La Signora di Ferro is the Iron Lady, Benvolio and Romeo’s formidable (and hypocritical) grandmother. Veronica is Benvolio’s fourteen-year-old bitch of a sister. Their mother, Elise Montague, is English…horrors…and a widow who seeks to marry off her son. Pietro is a distant cousin.  Master Silvio is the house blademaster.

The House of Capulet
Rosaline Capulet is an orphan and has been taken in with her brother by the Capulets of Verona. An intelligent woman who loves to read, she is intended for the Church. Tybalt Capulet, the house heir, is Rosaline’s brother and a bullying, vicious jerk. Lady Capulet is a cold woman and Tybalt and Rosaline’s aunt and Juliet’s mother. Roggocio is the Capulet who recognizes the Prince of Shadows.

Friar Lawrence is a monk who aids both sides; Monsignor Pietro holds the penitential goods. Giuliana is a potential wife; Lady Scala is her mother. The witch is Tomasso’s cousin.

Prince Escalus is the ruler of Verona and has forbidden battles between the Houses. He and Count Paris are cousins to Mercutio; and, Paris is to wed the young Juliet.

The Cover
The cover perfectly reflects the story and is definitely an intrigue with a man’s shadow back-to-back with Rosaline Capulet in her velvet finery, standing in front of an embossed panel.

The title is the problem, the Prince of Shadows, which complicates it all.

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6 responses to “Book Review: Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

  1. I have been a huge fan of Rachel Caine’s for a long time and I am so glad you liked this one. I was a bit dubious about picking it up as I am not a huge fan of retellings! However, by the looks of your review, it seems really good! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing lovely! 🙂

    Alex @ The Shelf Diaries

    • ladystorm

      It is excellent. It felt as if we were getting to the heart of what Shakespeare wrote…on the side.

    • ladystorm

      Yeah, I was skeptical as well. And yet another retelling of Romeo and Juliet?? But then I thought, hey…Rachel Caine. I can always put the book down, but she pulled me right in with this tale from a different perspective. She had the time, clothes, manners, and mores down beautifully. The emotions, the way Caine pulled in bits from Shakespeare and made them seem fresh…’twas well done.

  2. When I saw Rachel Caine and historical romance I definitely was intrigued, because when I think of her I think of Fantasy. This sounds really interesting and the vantage point sounds like it really breathed new life into an old (somewhat exhausted IMHO) story. I love that you get the boy’s friendship and the setting so well portrayed. I may check it out, great review Stormi!

    • ladystorm

      I was skeptical as well when I began reading it, but I figured, hey, it’s Rachel Caine. How bad can it be? And it was amazing. It’s almost as if Shakespeare borrowed from Caine.

    • ladystorm

      I know. Between her Morganville Vampires, Weather Wardens, Outcast Season, and Red Letter Days, this one is a real switch-up. And Caine’s writing continues to be fabulous.

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