Hi Magical Words!
I’ve got something brand new to share with you.
Prince of Shadows and the Rashomon Effect
My new book is not called Rashomon, by the way, and it shares almost nothing with the Japanese film of the 1950s by the great Akira Kurosawa … except an idea. Rashomon—the story of a rape and murder with four witnesses to the crime, each of whom tell it completely differently—is about viewpoints, and what happens when a witness to an event filters it through their own preconceptions.
While Rashomon is the undoubted master of this technique, there have been many more examples; it’s particularly powerful in film, so that’s where you find the hilarious Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Hoodwinked!, and the multiple-award-winning Crash. (Lots of TV examples as well, including a particularly insane episode of The X-Files called “Bad Blood”—which is only technically a vampire episode.
All share the same DNA, if nothing like the same story: what we think we know isn’t necessarily the truth, and we can’t always trust our own observations. In novels, this is sometimes accomplished through an unreliable narrator, but the thing is that the narrator doesn’t have to be unreliable—just misguided.
In the case of Prince of Shadows, it’s the mirror opposite. I assume that the characters and information we have about Romeo and Juliet is, in fact, incomplete and misguided. The challenge was to preserve the events of the play (because I don’t feel I’m in the least qualified to give Shakespeare plot pointers) and use the Rashomon Effect to see those events completely differently, based on information that my main characters (Benvolio, Rosaline and Mercutio) have that others do not. I also wanted to make sure that I was faithful to Shakespeare’s historical period, so it’s set in the same Verona that he used, at the same time—and that influences the characters so strongly that I couldn’t imagine telling this story any other way.
Prince of Shadows is all about fate, much as Romeo and Juliet was as well … about characters who accept it, embrace it, reject it, struggle with it, refuse it. Each of their choices has consequences. For Benvolio Montague, who grows up as the extra male child of the house, his fate is to be his cousin Romeo’s protector and his family’s sword—but his rebellion takes a dark-of-night form when he dons a mask and robs those who most deserve it. Rosaline Capulet understands her fate, but quietly resists her inevitable exit from society to the cloister. Mercutio Ordelaffi’s role assigned to him by his family and society is one he can’t, and won’t, fulfill, and it is his reaction against an unacceptable fate that drives the plot of Prince of Shadows, and by extension, Romeo and Juliet as well. One of the things that struck me so strongly in my research was how predestined the lives of children and young adults were, especially in the houses of the rich and noble, and how defying those limits came with dire consequences.
Woven around the events of the play, this story interacts with Romeo and Juliet’s love affair only around the edges, while Benvolio seeks to understand his friend Mercutio’s growing despair, and his cousin Romeo’s baffling behavior—only to run headlong into his own twist of fate when he falls slowly, inevitably in love with the equally reluctant Rosaline Capulet as they try to save their cursed families. The language is, I hope, in the flavor of Shakespeare while still being accessible to modern readers, and I tried to leave intact sections of his wonderful dialogue where possible. It’s a lush, ominous hothouse environment in Verona, one darkly ruled by passion and revenge; it’s a place in which politics was fought in the streets, and the church may forgive, but the city never does.
I hope you’ll join me for this dangerous, twisting story of love and obsession, tragedy and passion, murder and revenge … and the unexpected. Prince of Shadows debuts on February 4, 2014 in the US and Canada, and February 24 in the UK and Australia/New Zealand.
Watch the trailer on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUIJ2lPeeVs
Buy links (US/Canada): Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Hastings
Buy links (UK): Waterstones | Foyles | WH Smith
Buy links (Australia/NZ): Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Kinokuniya | Mighty Ape | Fishpond
Bio: Rachel Caine is the author of more than forty novels, including the internationally bestselling Morganville Vampires series in YA,as well as the popular Weather Warden, Outcast Season and Revivalist series in adult urban fantasy. Her newest release, PRINCE OF SHADOWS, debuts February 4, 2014.