Should a successful author of vampire novels (Black Dawn, 2012, etc.) attempt to write an alternative Shakespeare? Thankfully this one did, as the results are delicious.
Choosing Romeo and Juliet as her base, Caine expands the story from the viewpoint of Benvolio, Romeo’s Montague cousin. While Shakespeare’s plot clearly anchors Caine’s, the novel focuses on providing context for the well-known story rather than embellishing it. Beginning with the premise that friend Mercutio is gay and in love with Tomasso, a shy scholar, the book sets up a series of events that will result in Mercutio’s famous dying words, “a plague on both your houses.” Romeo and Juliet remain somewhat minor characters, their story unfolding in the background, mostly offstage. Benvolio himself has a new talent: He’s a cat burglar known as “The Prince of Shadows,” using his skills to exact revenge on those who have done him wrong. Benvolio’s robberies keep pages and plot moving toward Mercutio’s utterance—ambiguous to the characters but not to readers—while the novel remains focused on the overarching theme of love and useless revenge. Most impressive is the author’s simulation of Shakespeare’s language in her prose. Never too obscure for modern readers, it retains the flavor of Shakespearean dialogue throughout, lending an atmosphere of verisimilitude that’s reinforced by the detailed city setting.
Simply superb. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)