The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain: An Advanced Review

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of The Shadow Prince from the publisher in return for an honest review. (Also, I should mention that the review may contain some minor spoilers.)

I finally got a chance to start tackling my ARC reading pile, and The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain was at the top of my list. This may or may not be because I am completely biased towards Greco-Roman retelling. (i.e: Because I am in LOVE with fantasy stories based in this realm.) Of course, my love for all things Greco-Roman was one of the reasons I was so ecstatic when I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Haden Lord, the disgraced prince of the Underrealm, has been sent to the mortal world to entice a girl into returning with him to the land of the dead. Posing as a student at Olympus Hills High—a haven for children of the rich and famous—Haden must single out the one girl rumored to be able to restore immortality to his race.

Daphne Raines has dreams much bigger than her tiny southern Utah town, so when her rock star dad suddenly reappears, offering her full tuition to Olympus Hills High’s prestigious music program, she sees an opportunity to catch the break she needs to make it as a singer. But upon moving into her estranged father’s mansion in California, and attending her glamorous new school, Daphne soon realizes she isn’t the only student in Olympus who doesn’t quite belong.

Haden and Daphne—destined for each other—know nothing of the true stakes their fated courtship entails. As war between the gods brews, the teenagers’ lives collide. But Daphne won’t be wooed easily and when it seems their prophesied link could happen, Haden realizes something he never intended—he’s fallen in love. Now to save themselves, Haden and Daphne must rewrite their destinies. But as their destinies change, so do the fates of both their worlds.

Before I get into the review, lets all take a moment to drool over the AMAZING cover art! 😀 I love the symbols in the background and the colour scheme…I shortlisting whoever designed this cover and hoping I get the chance to talk to him or her when my book finally gets published.

As for the story beyond the cover…did it live up to the cover? Absolutely!

Despite being a young adult romance, this novel starts off with an epic beginning. We get a glimpse of the Underworld right of the bat and the world building only continues to get more amazing. Not to mention, we open with the mention of a dead person – Haden’s mother in this case:

I did the unforgivable the day my mother died, and for that I’ve been punished every moment of my life. 

Because it was a young adult, I was expecting the novel to read like a young adult, but the language and world are very sophisticated and are written well enough to interest an adult audience in the starting of the novel.

But the best part was, although the novel was written in first person, it switched perspectives between Haden and Daphne so we got to glimpse both their internal conflicts which made the story easier to follow – and more interesting because we didn’t get annoyed with either character for monologuing for too long.

Of course, the story does take liberties with the mythology, but that’s to be expected in a work of fiction. The whole Haden and Daphne relationship was a parallel for the Persephone and Hades myth. (Although, when I first read the back cover blurb, I thought Daphne referred to the nymph Apollo “fell in love with” and “tried to have his way with” but this was quickly disputed by all the references in the story.)

But the one thing that annoyed me about Daphne was that she was so perfect – it made her hard to relate to at times. I wanted her to have a flaw – it could have been something simple, but it never came up.

And as for when Haden and Daphne finally meet, the novel begins to play out a bit more like a young adult. The characters are both around 17 and attending a performing arts high school, and I felt that the plot introduced in the back cover blurb does get a bit lost in the high school aspects. Of course, this could be because I loved the whole epic Underrealm set-up in the beginning of the book and I wanted to see more of the Princes, etc. Also, personally speaking again, I am not a huge fan of the high school drama but this aspect of the novel shouldn’t have surprised me because – again – this was labelled as a young adult novel.

I feel like I have to stress that aspect of the novel, because the starting of the novel was so epic that I was sorry to see it change into a typical high school drama. But it is part of a series, so maybe the following novels will pick up on those more epic plot points of the story.

That being said, I did like the novel. Parts of the novel were really enjoyable, and I liked the world-building involved in creating the Underrealm. And I’ll probably continue reading the series to see where it goes. 🙂

Rika Ashton

(aka The Book Critic)

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