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Prince of Shadows

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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.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published January 29, 2014

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Rachel Caine

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 598 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
July 12, 2015
"I stood in the dark corner of my enemy's house, and thought of murder."

Well, that was completely unexpected. I decided to read this book because I have an arc of it, because it was Shakespeare, because I was curious, but... I have to confess, I was expecting the worst. For a few reasons: 1) I couldn't even make it through the first book of the author's Morganville Vampires series, 2) Well, duh, it's a Shakespeare retelling, and 3) Romeo and Juliet has always sparked conflicted emotions within me. In terms of language and style, it's exceptionally beautiful, with the kind of passionate writing that makes you want to throw yourself to the wolves in the name of true love:

"These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die, like fire and powder which, as they kiss, consume."

"When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars. And he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun."

You can get all caught up in that kind of red hot drama. But, when it comes down to it, the story is really about a pair of angsty, melodramatic teenagers who take instalove to an all new level. I've never really bought into the romantic side of Romeo & Juliet, I always found the family politics far more fascinating. So when Caine balanced her romance with a good deal of family dramatics, scandals, betrayals, action, curses and revenge, she actually created something I was always going to love. And her writing style was PERFECT for a Shakespeare retelling.

"A curse for love, cast in my own hand and faith and flesh. A curse of love, on the house of the guilty. Let them feast on love, as crows feast on the dead. Perhaps I am, after all, mad."

This book tells a story that runs parallel to the one most of you will be familiar with. Almost everything is happening the same but we see it from a whole new perspective and uncover surprising details. Like the fact that Benvolio is the Prince of Shadows - a Robin Hood-like character who steals from the rich, selfish and greedy - and has his own forbidden love for Juliet's cousin, Rosaline. Or the fact that Mercutio is secretly in love with a man and his double life threatens to endanger them all. Caine takes all the old characters and develops them in new and exciting ways - I was mesmerized.

"She knew tragedy with an intimacy that was almost obscene."

Everything about this was just... right for me. It is deliciously romantic, yet hopelessly tragic. It's dark, yet often funny (especially in the banter between Benvolio, Romeo and Mercutio). But one of my favourite things about the novel could be seen as a negative for some readers and it will all depend on your reaction to the original story. And that is the way Caine portrays Romeo. Not as a self-sacrificing romantic hero, but as an immature, bratty - albeit strangely lovable - boy of sixteen. I have more respect for the way romance and love is portrayed in the story because I don't have to try and force myself to believe in teen instaobsession. When compared to Romeo and Juliet's romance, the love between Benvolio and Rosaline seems far more mature and believable, but no less passionate and sexy (more so on the latter).

If you want a beautifully-written, atmospheric retelling that is as menacingly dark as it is sensual and passionate, I really don't think you need to look any further. I was very pleasantly surprised.

"But I warn you, what pulls them together is nothing a mortal man may battle; it is a holy fire, I tell you, a most holy fire that burns in them."
"The devil can stoke a fire as well as ever God could."

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Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
828 reviews3,674 followers
February 15, 2021

Wow. Here I am, in love with a Romeo and Juliet retelling. Who would have ever believed that it was possible? Not me for sure.

Romeo is a foolish infatuated kid who composes poems like we would write a shopping list. Yay! Finally I found in Benvolio a hero who shares my opinion of Romeo : as a kind but inconsistent and immature teenager who craves for drama. God, I'll take the Prince of Shadows on any day.

"It's Romeo. He'd swoon over a dancing bear if it wore a skirt."

My thoughts exactly.

Tybalt Capulet is an abusive asshole who deserves to die from a slow and painful death (I'm ready)

I have a love/hate relationship with Mercutio, but mostly, I can't help but love him.

"I love Rosaline", Romeo said. "One risks anything for love"
Mercutio gave him a disbelieving stare, then turned to me. "You actually let this infant out in the streets, Ben? On his own?"

Their friendship was so fierce and heartwarming that I found myself smiling more often than not.

Romeo and Juliet's love story is filled with madness. Indeed the direction chosen by Rachel Caine to portray Romeo and Juliet's love story was surprising and pleased me a lot. I don't want to say too much but I found this way so much more understandable and believable!

Benvolio is such a complex and captivating character. I shall marry him someday. The oldest of his generation, he can't afford to be a dreamer like Romeo : by all appearances he's (almost) exactly what we could call a wise fellow : strong, discreet, respectful, and if he sometimes sheds the blood, it's only to protect himself. Except that appearances can be deceitful and that's for the best : indeed Benvolio is none other than the Prince of Shadows, famous thief who strikes, revengeful, in the most important houses of Verona.

"I smiled, feeling fierce and free and wild in ways that no one would ever believe of the quiet, solid, responsible Benvolio Montague. At night I could be something else than what my city, my station, and my family required."

Benvolio is trust-worthy and loyal where Romeo is charming, but restlessly fights against his own inner demons, either impossible feelings or thirst for blood.

"There was a wilderness trembling inside me that begged to let fly, and let the arrows fall as random as rain."

I loved this about him - How couldn't I? It makes his character so much layered and real.

Rosaline is an heroine I can admire : strong-minded, smart, brave. I fell in love with them both - and suffered for them. One might say that it was insta-love, but I don't (completely) agree, as their relationship grows slowly, after perhaps an insta sparkle of interest on both counts, and with reasons, because they're both different from other people around them and both bounded by secrecy. In any case it didn't prevent me from loving the story because there was a splendid characterization and yeah, I fell in love with them.

Don't get fooled though : It would be grandly unfair to reduce this book to a love-story, because even if it is present, it's far, far away from being the main plot. Verona's world is brutal, unforgiving, filled with secrets, political alliances, violence and betrayals. Each path can lead to destruction, and one might act like a wolf to escape wolves' wrath.

How to survive in this pack of wolves? How to avoid all the low blows and manipulations present along the road? How far will you go to protect your family, your friends, your love?

How to live a life where deception is the norm and personal happiness a stupid and impossible dream?

The writing is utterly beautiful, and creates an haunting atmosphere that I wasn't able to escape before the last sentence. From the very first page I was transported into Verona, enthralled by Rachel Caine's vivid and superb words.

⑤ Whether because of the awesome action scenes or the slowly growing tension, I felt so many emotions - compassion, hope, rage, love, with always, in this world, the despair lurking.

Frankly? As far as retellings are concerned, Prince of Shadows was fantastic. Why, it almost makes me want to read Romeo and Juliet again - except I won't, because this is the story I want to carry in my heart.

Ps. Benvolio is no Ezio for sure, but come on, roofs and balconies in Italy?

I heart it.

"There is no freedom, Benvolio; you should give up that folly now. This city is made of stone, and the stones will press us down, and down, cutting off all light and hope until dark is the only light you will ever see."

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Profile Image for Simona B.
882 reviews2,948 followers
April 26, 2022

"I hadn't known I had innocence left in me until I'd felt it die."

This book conquered my heart, my soul, my mind and everything that was liable to conquering. This book is intelligent, well-written, witty, wonderfully plotted--you name it. It had me hooked from the very first chapters, and the rest not only lived up to, but abudantly exceeded the expectations that had been raised.

Prince of Shadows is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. But we all know how retellings go nowadays: they take the general plotting from the original story, mix it up a little, then more or less stumble forward. But Prince of Shadows actually achieves the goal that all quality retellings aim for: it worms its way in the folds of the original story, and then reworks it from the inside. After Prince of Shadows, I promise you, you'll never be able to look at Romeo and Juliet with the same eyes.

Let's now see more in depth what I mean by "reworking from the inside."

"I felt the same irresistible pull through my cousin's flesh, trying to draw him back to her. It was more than infatuation, more than love.
It was something darker than that, and with a darker end."
It was insta-love.

Well, all right, the last line is mine, but the point is: I am certain that all of us, to a greater or lesser extent, have been bothered by the question, "How could they fall in love so fast? That's not even healthy? I'm sure they must be on drugs?" Personally, the reason I like Romeo and Juliet is the politics, and personally, I couldn't care less about the two lovebirds. So yes, that question is me. And Prince of Shadows offered such a fresh viewpoint on this matter that, although I know it has nothing to do with the original Shakespearean story, now I'm not as likely to roll my eyes every time I hear Romeo and Juliet's names.

•Which leads me to Benvolio, Prince of Shadows. His characterization is perfect, both because it results adorable and appealing to the reader, and because it is exactly what this particularly story needed: he's reliable, resolute and trustworthy, iron-willed, level-headed, fierce, honourable. I also find it particularly remarkable that the author succeeded in mainting a balance between Benvolio's attachment to his family and its values, and his own personal sense of justice. The outcome is a splendidly fleshed-out young gentleman whose personality and impulses feel consistent with the historical context as depicted in the novel.

•The only fault I can find with Rosaline is that she appears in way too few scenes. I wished I'd had more time to appreciate her strength of character and nimble mind. Like Benvolio, she's sensible and clever, and it's adorably clear from the beginning that they truly are medias naranjas, soulmates, anime gemelle.

•The camaraderie: Benvolio, Romeo and Mercutio make such a funny, loyal gang. I loved their banter, I loved their interactions, I loved the obvious and deep affection they feel for each other, even though they never pass up the opportunity to bicker and tease one another.

The fantasy element: masterful. When I started the book, I didn't know it was going to turn into an historical fantasy, so it caught me completely by surprise, but I grew to love it very quickly. Original and well-placed.

•This book made me wish I was from Verona and knew all the strade, chiese and piazze that were mentioned. It made the city feel incredibly alive and real.

"Love and war are the same in Verona."

•Rachel Caine showcases a fabulous talent in imitating Shakespearean language, as the dialogues in particular can prove. I swear the feeling they give you is nothing short of ecstatic, and the writing in general is sheer pleasure.

Pet peeves time!
I had difficulties with the name "Tomasso." It exists, in theory, but it's so uncommon that I, as an Italian person who currently lives in Italy, didn't know it existed before I read this book, nor do I remember encoutering it any ancient story or text (of course, however, I'm fallible). We use "Tommaso," which is very very common. It was just weird.

➽ I was trying to find some less banal synonym for "It stole my heart, you must read it," but it seems I'm unable to find any, so: it stole my heart, go read it. Don't worry if you are Romeo and Juliet's fans, because this book won't ruin it for you. In fact, you'll love the original better. Prince of Shadows doesn't deprive its Shakespearean source of a single thing; if anything, it rereads it and reinterprets it, giving it new life, as the best retellings do.
Profile Image for Kainat 《HUFFLEPUFF & PROUD》.
293 reviews718 followers
February 9, 2017
"Perhaps I only imagined the friendship between us, fragile and unspoken and as deadly to us as a cup of poison."

Prince of Shadows is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. However, the author took an interesting turn here: Instead of focusing on R&J's "tragic" love story, Caine choice to tell this tale from Romeo's cousin, Benvolio's perspective. PoS started out really strong but somewhere in the middle, it lost me. Though this had a solid plot with likable characters, it didn't keep my interest for very long. I blame that on the writing style.

-First of all, it's written in the first person. I'm realizing more and more with each reading, I no longer have patience for stories being told from the first person. There is just something off-putting about it.

-To make things even worse, it's written in old, historical style. For some of you, it could be a plus. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case here.

-What irritated me the most was the absence of the female MC (already forgot her name, that's how relevant she was) throughout the most book. She was the only reason i didn't DNF this.

Trust me, i really wanted to like this one. I did try my best. If anyone has similar suggestions, please let me know.
Profile Image for Masooma.
69 reviews131 followers
January 6, 2016
Let the future fall. Let the houses burn, as long as you are together

The fire of Romeo and Juliet revises itself in this beautiful retelling by Rachel Caine. It is narrated by the thief who tootles the streets of Verona during the dark hours of night, Benvolio.

Prince of Shadows is rich in beautiful expressions, fine writing, crispy dialogues, and a cultural glimpse of the middle ages when a man's duty to his family and a woman's honour stood foremost and sacred.

Caine has entrancingly recaptured the essence of Shakespeare’s tragedy, there is a curse spinning, passion rising and lots of bodies falling; kissing the feet of death.

All the characters are finely drawn. Benvolio: mature, aware of his sensitive position in the house of Montague yet faithful to the duties loaded onto his shoulders, Rosaline: wise and beautiful, Romeo: a lustful fool and Mercutio: a man haunted by love; a fresh flower withered under the unhealthy rays of custom and tradition.

Twisted around friendship, family politics, duty and love, PoS is a tale of fire and ice, coming together, both scalding and cooling each other simultaneously.

“Duty is the rope that strangles me. Piety is a bed of broken glass. And family is the company of hateful demons.”

A book for everybody, regardless of their feelings of their original Romeo and Juliet.
758 reviews2,357 followers
October 20, 2017
DNF @35%

I know this is supposed to be the 1600's shit or whatever, but seriously Tybalt beating his sister bloody, woman being treated like absolute shit, serving no other purpose but to cook, clean, get married, and give birth around the age of 13, 14 is really not doing it for me. I'm painfully bored and cannot find a fuck to give from my pockets. I never like Romeo and Juliet so,, lmao bye.

Also, romeo is a dumb, fucking insta loving, piece of shit, I hAte HIM.
Profile Image for Vanessa J..
347 reviews593 followers
March 11, 2016

What a fantastic retelling of Romeo and Juliet. I'm not a fan of the story. Before reading Shakespeare's original tale, I was so sure I was going to hate it, and I was surprised to see I didn't, and that's because while reading it, I realised tht the story can be interpreted in various ways. Mine was that Romeo fell because of his lust. I already knew that normally in Shakespeare's plays the character whose emotions where the most intense or uncontrolled was the one destined to die or to be mocked, so I was okay with my interpretation.

Rachel Caine, with Prince of Shadows, brings us a new refreshing one that kind of combines mine with other more spoilery things I will not say, but it worked well for me. In fact, I'd rather read this book again than the original play (because gah! The instalove! It burns my eyes!).

The story starts some time before the events of Romeo and Juliet. Benvolio Montague disguises himself as the famous thief known as the Prince of Shadows as a way of escape, fun, and to steal from the arrogant ones or the ones who deserve punishment. Basically, the plot revolves around his adventures and misadventures as the Prince of Shadows while also trying to accomplish the task his feared grandmother assigned to him: Keep his problematic cousin Romeo, who falls in love too fast and too hard, from ruining the honor of the family by doing foolish things.

For me, Romeo was only a lustful teenager. Some people say what he felt for Juliet was real love, but what happened between them was too precipitated and ot was based only on looks. Also, if you don't remember, at the beginning of the play, it is stated that he was in love with someone named Rosaline, but as soon as he saw Juliet, everything was forgotten, which confirms what I said. Here, he is portrayed just like I always pictured him to be.

It's Romeo. He'd swoon over a dancing bear if it wore a skirt.

The rest of the characters from the play are brought back in all their glory. Mercutio was particularly well developed and made into an intriguing and complex character who made me laugh at times and then feel pity. Rosaline has an important role, and I loved her too for being strong and intelligent.

The narrator Benvolio was great as well. I loved him so much. He was supportive of his friends, tried to make himself a good image of a Montague, while dealing woth his double life as a thief, which as I said, was used as a way of escaping his reality.

As this is a Romeo and Juliet retelling, there needs to be death. And oh, there is lots of that, as well as a really tragic and unexpected love story which wouldn't have made me angry as well as sad had it not been so depressingly unacceptable. There is lots of love, hatred and human stupidity involved too, which made the book turn from normal to a little sad to heart-breaking and, in the end, very intense.

Love is the curse.

I haven't read Caine's vampire books, and to be honest, I don't think I ever will since I don't like reading about vampires (they have gotten too fluffy for my taste and I don't want to risk it), but her writing in this book makes me want to read more of hers. It was simply so beautiful. It followed the style of Shakespeare but more believable and I loved it.

I wish I could complain about something, but I cannot think of anything. Maybe in the future something will come to me - who knows? - but for now, I'll just say this is a read I entirely recommend for fans and not fans of Romeo and Juliet alike.
Profile Image for Nina.
306 reviews409 followers
February 10, 2017
4.5 stars

I stood in the dark corner of my enemy's house, and thought of murder.

How can I possibly not fall in love with a Romeo and Juliet retelling that commences with trespassing and murderous thoughts? HOW? Simply impossible.

I've only read one other novel by Rachel Caine, and Ink and Bone sorely disappointed me. So when I picked up Prince of Shadows, realizing only halfway through the book by whom it had been written, I was pleasantly surprised. Because this book was amazing. Now, let me tell you about my feels because I have many.

Let it be known that I love retellings, especially those that expand an original beyond its horizon. This Romeo and Juliet retelling was enriched by the point of view of Benvolio Montague, Romeo's (much more reasonable) cousin. Prince of Shadows combines an engaging narrator (yes, Benvolio Montague is my dreamboat), a dark atmosphere set in the streets of Verona (yes, Verona is a gem of Italy) and poetic prose that makes the historical setting come to life.

This was the retelling of Romeo and Juliet I didn't know I needed in my life. Let me tell you of my undying love for Benvolio Montague. The most famous burglar of Verona – which earns him the nickname Prince of Shadows – is an exquisite character, and he makes Romeo look like a fool. There is no greater joy than discovering remotely reasonable men in a Romeo and Juliet retelling, let me assure you. So in this book, a different male protagonist advances into the spotlight. Benvolio is not quite as pretty as his rosy-cheeked cousin Romeo but he's the one who has his wits together. Benvolio is such a wonderfully multi-layered, captivating character. Whereas others settle differences with a brawl in the city, Benvolio sneaks across the rooftops of Verona to steal his enemies' possessions of value. He's a sneak. A trickster, but one loyal to his family and his friends. At the manor, he's a caged panther, but at night he puts on his disguise and revels in his freedom. And I love this guy, have I mentioned that? Yes? Yes. Romeo, on the other hand, is a dreamer, his heads more in the clouds that firmly on his shoulders. Romeo, though praised as the epitome of a romantic, is a shallow little fellow who cannot see past a beautiful face. He made me want to break things, dear friends.

So, one fateful day, Benvolio meets his match, which happens quite early in the book. He runs into Rosaline on one of his nightly excursions of thievery. Rosaline is a strong heroine, someone to root for, for her characterization is empowering to women. She is well-educated, strong-willed, and has a spark of sass, too. The pairing of Benvolio and Rosaline are the slow burn to Romeo and Juliet's insta-love. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the contrast. I'm not fond of stories featuring insta-love but it worked in miraculous ways in Prince of Shadows. Because as I've mentioned, the book is told from Benvolio's perspective, so it really underpins the strength of a slowly developing love. In addition, I appreciated the explanation Caine delivered for the folly that was Romeo and Juliet's fleeting romance.

To reduce Prince of Shadows to a mere love story would, however, not do the book justice in the slighest. What made me love this book so much was that the love story, though a driver of the plot, didn't take a front seat.

I had a love-hate relationship with their best friend Mercutio. Mercutio is such a grey character, he's the friend who sways from his path because he's deeply wronged and wounded, and yet you kind of what to give him a good shake. Their gay best friend who's also involved in Benvolio's nightly mischief is instrumentalized for two purposes. One, as demonstrated by the example of Mercutio, the focus on friendship is strong in this book. The three young men make a fantastic trio and Verona puts their loyalties to the test more than once. Two, also demonstrated by the example of Mercutio, the author takes a wonderful stab at the injustices of a narrow-minded and corrupt society, and though it hurt as hell, I still loved it. This book stirs an intricate plot of political alliances, family feuds, violent clashes, and betrayals. The ugly truth of Verona's little secrets is bloody and unforgiving, and the book paints a haunting image of a city torn apart by two families with poignant, vivid writing. The pain, sorrows, desperation, and hatred were so palpably real, which is testimony to Caine's skills as a writer. From sympathy to blinding fury, I think Prince of Shadows made me feel every shade of emotion in existence.

All in all, Prince of Shadows made for a wickedly good love story. Wicked, because it was overshadowed by hatred, bloodshed, and general madness. Good, because it gave me all the feels. And because Romeo and Juliet can both suck it, for they are not the true stars of this romantic tragedy. Seriously, if you have a heart for twisted reimaginings of ancient tales, then Prince of Shadows is your book.

(Credit for the visual material goes to Allison and Busby).
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
586 reviews3,479 followers
May 13, 2017
4.5 stars

“Perhaps one day I’d be made a saint—the patron saint of fools and lovers, if those terms were not exactly the same.”

An totally accurate picture of my face while reading:

Prince of Shadows is an amazing retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. I confess I've only read the abridged version for school, so I don't have much recollection of the protagonists here.

The story is mainly told from side characters' perspectives. We follow the same plot—Romeo and Juliet fall in love, the balcony scene, the wedding—but these events happen on the sidelines. Instead our main protagonist is Benvolio, the spare heir of the Montague family. He poses as the Prince of Shadows, a Robin Hood-like character who steals from the rich to knock them down a peg.

Other POVs include Mercutio, best friend to Benvolio and Montague ally, and Rosaline from the Capulet family. In both here and the original play, Rosaline is the woman Romeo is madly in love with until he meets Juliet.

I'm not sure how she's characterized in the original, but she's brilliant here. Brave. Clever. Rosaline loves to read and longs to study, but is unable to due to prejudices.

"There is secret power in being thought weak, and a fool, as women are so often see; when I lied, I did so without a quiver, and no one looked more closely."

To be honest, I was initially worried the women might take a backseat because it's primarily told from Benvolio's perspective. Plus, most of the important characters are men (as per the era, I suppose). Fortunately, there are good solid female figures as well. Even Juliet, who we barely see, has a distinct personality outside of the lovestruck girl the narrative introduces her as.

(I did take some points off though due to the "better than other girls" vibe Rosaline has.)

Romeo's characterization is particularly deserving of praise. I've seen reviews that say he's whiny and foolish, which is fair, but it also goes much deeper than that. Yes, he's a romantic and rather naive, but he's also brave and loyal and kind. His relationship with his Mercutio is stunningly written.

Friendships are the real star of the book, not romantic love. Though friendship is a different kind of love, isn't it? The relationship between Benvolio and Mercutio is beautiful, and it broke me, as it broke Ben, to see it disintegrate and his old friend turn cruel and cold after his lover Tomasso was hung.

Caine's reinterpretation of Romeo and Juliet's insta-love is fascinating, too.

"Romeo had ever been a follower of Venus, but this... There was something new in his face, his eyes, in the bend of his shoulders towards hers, and the clasp of their hands. I saw it mirrored in her, blinding and beautiful but also dangerously fanatical."

Great characters, great writing, terrific plot. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,814 reviews494 followers
November 3, 2020
I confess that I had absolutely no knowledge of Rachel Caine or her writing before today. On a quick GOOGLE search, I see that vampires seem to be her forte. So, I am assuming that this was a little bit of departure from her normal stuff and will have its share of lovers and haters. I fall in the first category. Seriously, any author who takes on the world of well known writers has to be so careful about the execution of it. To take on one of Shakespeare's well-known plays? Yeah, that is going to take some pretty big balls.

Luckily, it all works out for Caine in this Romeo and Juliet retelling and I felt myself totally immersed in the re-visit to Verona. If you've always had lingering questions about R& J, but your English teacher failed to answer, then this book is what you're looking for. What types of questions? For starters, why did Lord and Lady Montague put so much pressure on Benvolio to keep Romeo out of trouble? Did Tybalt have a deeper reason than just centuries of pent up familial warfare to strike against Romeo? What could possibly be the reason for Mercutio's descent into madness? Oh and what did Mercutico really mean when he uttered 'a curse upon your houses'?

The "Prince of Shadows" is none other than Benvolio Montague, the older cousin of star-crossed Romeo. Benvolio takes us from the streets of Verona, to the inner sanctum of Montague headquarters, to the secrets that haunt his best friend Mercutico, and to the forbidden love that he feels towards the dark-headed girl named Rosaline Capulet.

As well, those who love the Bard for his wit will be satisfied that Caine was able to keep it. Some of the scenes between Benvolio, Mercutio, and Romeo are so great I thought WS might have written them himself. While Shakespeare's play took only a matter of days, Caine story is like a fine wine. Yes, you'll be impatient to get to what you know but it is all worth it!
Profile Image for gio.
1,007 reviews387 followers
December 13, 2016
4.5 rounded up to 5 for now.

I'm just tired of 4.5s, and I haven't given a 5 since The Raven King. I'm not 100 percent sure on this one, I might change it, but for now I only want to shout: FINALLY A FREAKING 5.

"I stood in the dark corner of my enemy's house, and thought of murder."

Well, colour me surprised, but this might be one of the best retellings I've ever read. And let me add that I've read some good ones (Tiger Lily and The Forbidden Wish, to name just two of those).

There are a lot of great elements in Prince of Shadows and right now I can't even think of flaws, but a small one: it did not make me feel a lot in terms of emotional involvement. But, to be honest, that might be due to the fact that I'm not one to cry easily nor to let myself feel much most of the time. So I'm willing to let go of that for now.

I'm not a fan of Romeo and Juliet. I haven't read much by Shakespeare, but the few plays I've read I liked. Well, most of them anyway. Romeo and Juliet I've always hated. I'm much more of an Hamlet kind of person, and that insta-love story between children has always left a sour taste in my mouth. Well, I couldn't help but appreciate, if not truly love, what Caine did with that story.

> I loved that she choose to focus her story on two secondary characters: Benvolio and Rosaline. I think it was the best possible choice, because a retelling about Romeo and Juliet themselves wouldn't have worked so well, at least not for me. In this case Romeo and Juliet are just props on the scenery: necessary for some events to take place, but merely victims, whose actions are part of bigger scheme.

> I loved the author's interpretation of the events. Really, the way she explained the events that led to Romeo and Juliet's love story and death was so surprising, in a positive way. It made sense and I liked that kind of twist. Actually, I liked her interpretation more than Shakespeare's.

> Now, the characters. Benvolio I truly liked. His voice sounded realistic and likable. He's no saint (and that helped his cause bahahaha) and yet you can't help but root for him. He is quite rational, and that was much appreciated. Actually, that can be said about Rosaline too. It was indeed refreshing to see two characters listen to the voice of reason, instead of being selfish and foolish. I couldn't help but like Mercutio too, even after all that happened.

> Prince of Shadows is well written. Not only when it comes to the writing style itself, but in terms of pacing too. The book itself kept me hooked even if I knew, or could imagine at least, how it would end. And that, my friends, is no small feat.

Overall this was a nice surprise, it really hooked me and offered a new, clever interpretation of the famous play.
Profile Image for Norah Una Sumner.
845 reviews447 followers
January 3, 2016
3,5 stars

I've really liked Benvolio and Rosaline but everyone else was not so memorable. We all know the story Shakespeare created but Rachel Caine got the idea to take that story and narrate it through the eyes of Benvolio. Of course that I was super excited to read this since I really liked Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet but,unfortunately,I didn't quite enjoy this story as much as I thought I would. Benvolio,or Prince of Shadows,is a great character and I definitely connected with him and felt both his pain and his love. Rosaline was portrayed like a very thoughtful and interesting person and I liked her a lot and rooted for her from the very beginning. Caine added some diversity into the known story - Mercutio is in love with another boy, there are also some magic elements which definitely complete the story. Romeo and Juliet were portrayed as...well,pathetic. I mean,it's obvious that Romeo is a bit of an idiot but he's even a bigger idiot here. Of course,there's a lot of bloodshed. Who wouldn't expect that? The ending was interesting and well-played-out. So what's the matter then? I couldn't connect with any of the supporting characters (aka I didn't care about them at all) and I didn't like the writing. The author tried to keep it close to the original but the way she did this just wasn't my cup of tea.

Profile Image for Desirae.
1,898 reviews139 followers
November 7, 2020


If you enjoyed this,


Or this,


Or hell, even this,


Then you will adore this retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet!

Prince of Shadows is told from the perspective of Benvolio Montague, who for those of you familiar with the play will recall, is the only one of his generation left alive at the end. In Caine’s telling he is from a lower branch of the Montague family, therefore not entitled to the power and tithes of his cousin and family heir Romeo. Rather than begrudging this though, he accepts it, yet he hungers for something more… And it’s that hunger that leads him to take up a secret night life as Verona’s fabled Prince of Shadows, a masked thief who stalks the city streets, Robin Hood style, stealing from the affluent, including sly and brutal Tybalt Capulet, Prince of Cats.

It’s on such a night of thievery that he sneaks into the Capulet mansion with the aim to steal Tybalt’s dagger, but he accidently walks into a room and spies Rosaline, a Capulet cousin, and for the purpose of this retelling, Tybal’s younger sister. It’s this first brief encounter that forms the basis of the story, creating a bond, and a secret which is held between our hero and heroine for the rest of the novel.

What really struck me here was the strength of the characterization. Benvolio is one of the better male narrators I’ve come across in YA lit, and as a reader I can’t help being drawn to his cleverness, and whit. He is equally balanced at home, facing the wrath of his evil grandmother (another strong female character, who sits on a wooden chair formed from the fallen doors of her enemies villas,) as he is in the shadows where the image of Rosaline, the connection, the secret he shares with her, still haunts him.

Rosaline, like Benvolio, is an utter treat. She’s feisty and vivacious and jumps of the page, matched equally with the masked Prince of Shadows, and like any good Shakespeare heroine (Rosalind, Viola…) she is not afraid to doff her women’s weaves and explore the streets at night in men’s garb if she has to. Although Rosaline never appears in the flesh of Shakespeare’s text she is spoken about often. Shakespeare uses the technique of Romeo’s “bad” poetry in the opening scenes of the play to hint to the viewer that his feelings are far from genuine. It isn’t until later when he meets and interacts with Juliet that his lyricism improves tenfold. I read once that Juliet’s famous “What’s in a name…” speech is actually a play on Romeo’s former “love” for her cousin Rosaline, a name which means ‘Rose.’ In essence she is saying “A ‘Rose’ (Rosaline) by any other name (Juliet, a kinswomen) would smell as sweet.”

All the original players are in attendance – The lords and ladies of each house, Friar Lawrence, Nurse, Balthazar, and some new ones as well: Veronica, Benvolio’s foul-mouthed, troublesome sister, and a local witch who conjures courses and spells (a plague on both your houses). I actually think the latter addition fits extremely well with the superstition and high religion aspects of Shakespeare’s play.

There’s also a homosexual poet version of Mercutio, who reminds me a bit of this, actually,


Romeo and Juliet are also present, but as with most modern reinterpritiations they come across as a bit pathetic – I can see that for Romeo, but not Juliet, here Juliet is very flighty. I think a lot of writers fail to see how smart and intuitive she really is. But I do think the explanations of their fierce love work really well here.

The only thing I did not care for was how Caine transposed the nearly-original Shakespearian text into certain scenes. For example, in the market scene, characters were suddenly saying: “Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?” which I think feels a bit heavy for not only the rest of the novel (it was nearly perfect, don’t ruin it,) but also for anyone not as familiar with the text etc. I mean, things like: “Why then is my pump well-flowered?” will only bring about confusion.

AND OMG, The last 50 pages. I was beyond in love with the descriptions and events here. I can’t remember the last time I fan girled so much at the end of a book.

Read this!
Profile Image for Roaringwave.
311 reviews58 followers
December 3, 2020
I read all of this in one day whether that’s because I genuinely enjoyed it or because my classes were boring we’ll never know. Honestly, my biggest complaint about this book was that it is an unrequited insta-love (the worst kind), but despite that, I did enjoy it somewhat. The most annoying thing was the fact that Benvolio was constantly talking about Rosaline’s beauty and said things like “the way her skin glows” (blegh). And Rosaline was plain to everyone but Benvolio and his cousin Romeo and every other man who laid eyes on her, but of course, no one wanted to marry her even though she belonged to one of the most powerful families in the city. The whole marrying 14 yr olds to old men thing was a little weird but realistic for that time period. TBH now that I think about it, this book has everything that would make me hate a romance but I didn’t? Idk, I might change my rating on further reflection (but probably not).
Profile Image for Chantal .
333 reviews823 followers
July 3, 2018
Such an underrated YA novel! An interesting, unique spin on a story we all know and has been retold to death. Some parts dragged but on the whole the novel was well-written, had fleshed out characters and a swoon-worthy romance. Recommend!
Profile Image for Kate Quinn.
Author 32 books21.3k followers
January 19, 2020
Romeo and Juliet retold with a surprising twist. The hero and heroine here are Benvolio (Romeo’s steady best friend) and Rosaline (Romeo’s first infatuation, ditched for Juliet). This pair is smarter, older, and far more savvy than their more famous counterparts, and they struggle to stop the inevitable–all the while feeling like the “curse on both their houses” may be a literal catalyst for all this disaster, and not just a poetic conceit. Made my year-end top ten list the year I read this.
Profile Image for Kaora.
549 reviews278 followers
August 25, 2014
3.5 Stars

It has been a while since I read Shakespeare. I originally read this in high school and I remember acting this story out in class to make it seem more interesting to a bunch of rowdy teenagers, as well as watching the movie (with Clare Danes).

I went into this expecting to be bored, and was thoroughly surprised, once I passed the slow start, to be immersed.

"You're as fragile as a barbarian's broadsword."
"I've yet to see a barbarian close enough to examine his broadsword."

Rachel Caine truly does this story justice, with witty dialogue and plots of love, betrayal, curses, and scandals.

The story is told from the point of view of Benvolio, a character I thoroughly enjoyed, second favorite only to the character of Rosaline, a smart woman who tells it like it is.

"Safe?" Rosaline raised her chin. "Safe? You know nothing about us, Benvolio Montague. We live our lives in terror, not in safety - terror of our fathers, who may beat or kill us with any reason or none at all. Terror of the men we will wed, having scarce set eyes upon them before that moment and yet expected to submit to all I ask. Give me a sword and I will make my own safety."

This will appeal to fans of Shakespeare, and those who struggle with him as Caine makes the story understandable and entertaining to all.
Profile Image for Camly Nguyen.
249 reviews41 followers
August 31, 2015
DNF 50%
Too slow for my taste and writing is pretty bad. It's weird because when I read the real Romeo and Juliet, I felt that Romeo did the things he did because he was hopelessly in love but when I read this book, I felt like he did those things because he was just stupid. There's a difference there and that brings down the story a bit. I understand that the author wanted to rewrite the story in the hopes of making it better and more interesting. Unfortunately, I don't even have the strength to skim the other half of this book anymore...nothing was going on. I don't know there, maybe there is more action towards the end, but for me it's a nope.
589 reviews1,030 followers
February 1, 2014
Not for me. DNF. I'm just no fan of the author's writing style. I had to DNF Glass Houses as well. :/
Profile Image for Minni Mouse.
594 reviews949 followers
December 18, 2017
I thought I’d known the depths of cruelty men hid, but this . . . this was another thing entire. I’d known all our lives that we were fragile, easily punctured flesh, but seeing the boy choke on that noose, seeing the laughter and jeers from those who’d killed him . . . hearing the thumps as rocks pelted his dying body . . . that had shattered something within me, something I did not know was so precious.

I hadn’t known I had innocence left in me until I’d felt it die.

If you haven't read this book, you need to read this book. If you're hazy on the story of Romeo and Juliet, it's fine because this is Benvolio Montague's story anyway -- Romeo is a secondary character and Juliet herself barely factors. But wow! What a clever and uncomfortably relevant story. What Rachel Caine seemed to tell with this story was less of one of star-crossed lovers but more of the tragedy of hate and cruelty and deep-seeded discord...something we can all find relevant today, yes?

I don't remember the play well so I probably missed many of the clever integrations of Shakespeare's original writing, but the voice of this book did such a seamlessly brilliant job of integrating modern reality with Shakespearean prose. That in itself makes this book stand out as an expertly crafted story and one I would highly encourage to all.

1) The writing! The voices and narration and nods to Shakespeare's original lines? 👍🏼

2) Retelling the story from Benvolio's point of view gave the whole tale a completely different twist and one would even argue that this book was almost as much Mercutio's story as Benvolio's. So much personality and depth were given to both their characters that I found myself wholly absorbed in their experiences for good and bad.

3) Middle finger to insta-love. Romeo and Juliet don't make logical sense. There. We know it, the author knows it, and even the story characters know it. So how to explain it? Address it.

“Romeo had never clapped eyes upon the Capulet maiden Juliet until he saw her at the feast where the Capulets would celebrate her betrothal to Count Paris,” I said. “Is it then sensible that he formed such a close attachment that he would marry her in only days? Or that he would linger in Verona past his exile to stay in her embrace, when he knew well his life was forfeit?"

Brother, you speak on behalf of side-eyers and scoffers alike. #saynotoinsta-love

4) Most of all, this book didn't shy away from the ugliness of senseless hate and cruelty. And ugly it was. And disturbing. And ominous. Because where did that leave the characters? Violence, senseless death, and fear all around. Rachel Caine doesn't need to lecture modern day readers on the dangers of hate and fear and bigotry -- she shows it with the self-explanatory parallels that are impossible not to resonate.

5) Let's talk about how as imperfect and flawed as Benvolio was, he was a relatable and thus likeable character.

1) General book chemistry.

2) The cover...does not make clear sense.

Rachel Caine takes this well-known tale and flips it on the head, all the while preserving the sense of tragedy because make no mistake: this story is still a tragedy. While the Shakespeare story played it up as a tragedy of forbidden romance, Caine goes even further by offering that the real tragedy comes with senseless, misplaced emotions -- emotions of fear, hate, bigotry, apathy, infatuation, grief, and darkness. It doesn't matter if those emotions manifested as pursuits of justice, law, morality, puppy love, jest, or mourning because each and every one of them were wrong and divisive.

Ya'll need to read this, friends. What a smart, smart piece of writing.
Profile Image for Colleen Houck.
Author 23 books8,936 followers
September 23, 2014
This is one book that I wish I'd written. I know I never could though. The idea of attempting a Shakespeare spin off is so brave and Rachel Caine did such an excellent job. The curse on the House of Capulet and Montague was such a fantastic addition to the story. Well done!
Profile Image for Sarah.
116 reviews9 followers
August 31, 2012
I just finished the manuscript for this book, and while it is not the finished copy, IT WAS BRILLIANT!! If you love period pieces, Shakespeare, and Romeo & Juliet, you will LOVE this retelling by Rachel Caine. I want to tell you more, but I'm afraid of spoilers. Will add more to this review closer to release!
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,011 reviews67 followers
September 25, 2015
Никогда не любила Шекспировкую драму, но этот пересказ "Ромео и Джульетты" считаю великолепным! Автор дала возможность взглянуть на историю под другим углом, глазами других героев! Класс!
Profile Image for Cindy ✩☽♔.
944 reviews768 followers
April 11, 2017
'Twas no great love affair between this book and I, though there was no hate either

*Detailed Review to Come*
Profile Image for AH.
2,005 reviews370 followers
January 17, 2014
Initial Thoughts: I am really not sure how to rate this book right now. In many ways, it felt like Romeo and Juliet for young adult readers. It's been so long since I've read the original that I'll need to check and see what was changed. The characters are the same but the story is told from Benvolio's point of view. Anyhow, while I had that deja vu feeling, I still felt compelled to read on.

The Review:
I must confess that I read Romeo and Juliet way back in high school. I don't remember all the details and they are probably skewed by the movie versions of the play. I also not sure how to rate this book. I didn't love it nor did I hate it. I did feel strangely compelled to keep reading, staying up late at night and ignoring my family's pleas for dinner.

Yes, Ms. Caine is a very talented writer. Perhaps taking on Romeo and Juliet to create her own Prince of Shadows was a risk. Was it successful? I think so. Again, there was this unexplained compulsion to keep on reading.

The cast of characters are the same as the play. Prince of Shadows is told from Benvolio's point of view. Benvolio is Romeo's cousin and his is charged with protecting Romeo and ensuring that the heir to the Montague fortune doesn't do anything stupid. This is pretty much a hopeless task because Romeo is an idiot. Benvolio also has an alter-ego. He is the Prince of Shadows, a cat burglar who robs from the rich and gives to the poor (with a little bit on the side for himself).

Romeo is your typical spoiled rich boy with not enough to keep him busy and out of trouble. He writes poetry to Rosaline who is a Capulet. I liked Rosaline - she seemed to be the only one with a head on her shoulders.

This book made me want to dig up my copy of Romeo and Juliet to compare Prince of Shadows to the original. Perhaps this is the appeal of this book - it made me want to dig up the classic.

Thank you to Edelweiss and NAL for a review copy of this book.
Profile Image for Books are TARDIS.
165 reviews50 followers
January 1, 2016
A plague on both your houses.

I have no love for the original Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps that's the biggest reason why I liked this retelling so much. Because it highlights everything I find wrong in the original story and paints Romeo and Juliet as the love struck well meaning but extremely foolish children that they are IMHO.

Benvolio is a deeply flawed yet noble character. Best of all, Ben is seriously interesting and a rather dashing hero. What can I say, I'm a fan.

And Rosaline is the very picture of a strong, sensible and self-reliant female lead.

I really enjoyed the writing and how some of the original Romeo and Juliet quotes are interwoven into the story. The family politics and power plays are the highlight of the novel. The dark and violent atmosphere of Verona depicted in the novel lends itself very well to the story. The paranormal factor played well enough, though could have been done better. The focus on loyalty, friendship and family politics rather than romance was the right direction for this book. I was rooting for Ben so much.

And that is what makes this a 5 star read for me, that I was seriously vested in the outcome.
Profile Image for Nasty Lady MJ.
1,057 reviews16 followers
March 31, 2014
Really 2.5 stars.

To see full review visit here

I'm just going to put it out there: I hate Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Yes, I hate his most famous play, despite the fact that many English teachers have championed it, it just doesn't work for me and it probably never will.

However, a retelling of this famous tale from a minor character's POV to me seemed like it could be interesting. Especially since said main character is said to be a thief, sad to say he and most of the book made me yawn more than anything else.

Prince of Shadows isn't a horrible book. Yes, it's bad. But I have read much, much worse. What Prince of Shadows is is more or less a disappointment. Which I think was because of a few bad choices.

Mainly point of view. I'm sorry but Benvolio was beyond being dull. The fact that Caine tried to make him more interesting by giving him this Robin Hood-ish back story but never fully expanding on it was just sad and sort of embarrassing.
Profile Image for Pam Pho.
Author 11 books326 followers
January 14, 2014
Fantastic. Romeo and Juliet is not one of my favorite plays. The whims of two children tearing apart two houses always disturbed me. Caine has taken the source material and turned it into a most amazing account of Italy and the Hatfield McCoy type war between the families. Told from Benvolio's perspective PRINCE OF SHADOWS was lush and completely re-imagined. I adored every second I got to spend in Cain's take. Highly recommended.
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