Book Review: Rachel Caine’s Prince of Shadows

Posted July 13, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Rachel Caine’s Prince of Shadows

Prince of Shadows


Rachel Caine

literature in Hardcover edition that was published by New American Library (NAL) on February 4, 2014 and has 368 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon., Kobo.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Undone, Unknown, Ghost Town, Rachel Caine, Bite Club, Dark and Stormy Knights, Devil's Bargain, Devil's Due, Last Breath, Unseen, Hex Appeal, Unbroken, Black Dawn, Working Stiff, Two Weeks' Notice, Bitter Blood, Kiss of Death, Fall of Night, Daylighters, Kicking It, Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, Ash and Quill, Killman Creek

This is historical fiction playing off Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but from Romeo’s cousin’s point-of-view, and I wish my star rating system went up to a “7”!

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 and Title

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.