I received an ARC of this book and thus am committed to posting an honest review. Let me preface this review by saying that I commencRating: 4.5 stars
I received an ARC of this book and thus am committed to posting an honest review. Let me preface this review by saying that I commenced reading this book feeling wary of its purported intention of picking up where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet left off. As a lover of Shakespeare’s works, I think this initial wariness may be something I had common with other readers. However, whatever its faults, I am happy to say that this book succeeded in fully drawing me into its world and caring for its characters.
I will try to avoid spoilers in this review, which will be somewhat difficult due to the layers of suspense that Melinda Taub doles out in her debut novel. This is my take on different aspects of Still Star-Crossed:
1. The prose. Melinda Taub makes the rather bold choice of writing the novel’s dialogue in pseudo-Shakespearean English, complete with the traditional informal tense using thee and thou when appropriate – and in my opinion, she succeeds admirably. I hope her choice will not put off certain of her potential readers, though it very well may. As one who can rather easily fall into the cadence of Shakespearean English while reading his plays, I did not find it distracting. I also appreciated her note at the end of the novel, acknowledging that her novel takes place not in Verona proper, but in Shakespeare’s Verona, where everyone speaks English and the geography is somewhat different. ☺
2. The characters. These characters are brilliant. I would read the entire book regardless of its other merits simply to discover what happens to the people that inhabit this world. They are very well drawn, and I loved that they were believable, flawed, and had real motivations throughout.
3. The relationships. This goes along with the above point. I feel like the relationships showcased here are very genuine and complex, and I don’t simply mean the romantic ones. I love Livia and Rosaline’s sister relationship, both for its playful banter and the essential and yet unstated understanding these sisters have for each other after their complicated childhood. As a sister myself, this dynamic seems very real. I also love the dynamic between Rosaline and Benvolio, who are two decent people embroiled on opposite sides of a long-standing conflict. I enjoyed the slow progress they make from their initial wary alliance to end the feud to a somewhat less wary friendship.
4. The pacing. You wouldn’t know this by looking at the front cover (more on that later), but this book is a very suspenseful read. While it is clear from the off that certain of the Montague and Caplet clans are less that pleased with the peace declared after Romeo and Juliet’s demise, who is doing what about their displeasure and why is much less clear for the majority of the novel. Melinda Taub also has a wonderful way of intimating the intentions of her characters without fully revealing them, which keeps one guessing. And I felt that the conclusion of it all was very much in the balance until the final denouement. That, in my opinion, is a sign of good storytelling.
1. The early reveal. There is one reveal early on in the book that pulled me out of the story. My initial reaction was – seriously? Suffice it to say that one of the dead from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet actually survived in this text (not one of the titular characters, of course). His survival is hidden, and he is nursed back to health, for reasons not immediately apparent. I eventually forgave the author for taking this liberty, because ultimately I really like this book, but I will say that it annoyed me for a while.
2. The cover. I don’t necessarily dislike the cover, but it does give off a particular vibe that may undermine its potential audience. Its cover seems to pigeonhole it as typical fare for YA romance readers. Not a horrible move, but perhaps limiting. I have friends who would, I think, enjoy this book, but who would probably avoid a book with this cover because of that implication. Also, the strong Rosaline characterized in the book is not the sultry red-lipped shoulder-baring one on the cover. Please.
Overall, I think this is a great read. I appreciate the author’s vision and what she does with the world she borrowed from Shakespeare - it is a fitting tribute to the Bard. I really like the characters and the story both, and I hope other readers will give this book a chance and come to like them as well. ...more