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THE SHADOW PRINCE
Right now, the market is inundated with retellings, be they from classic literature, fairy tales, or various mythological cultures. It's always fresh and fun when, rather than go the route of retelling a story for the umpteenth time, the author takes elements from the worldl and creates something brand-new. That's exactly what Bree Despain did when creating her new series Into the Dark, the first of which, THE SHADOW PRINCE, is available now. The series liberally uses various aspects of Greek mythology, and it's great. At first, I thought this was going to be another Persephone and Hades story, since there have been so many of them recently. But then, there was a lot of focus on Orpheus and Eurydice, which is one of my favorite myths, but seldom focused on in modern tellings. There's also a lot of great original mythology tied in, such as reasons for the Underrealm, as well as another group that's too spoilery to mention now. I was impressed with the level of mythology and original spins on lore seeped throughout the novel, and would recommend it to both fans of mythology and readers who don't know much about the subject.
Haden Lord is a disgraced prince of the Underrealm. His father, King Ren, has disowned him, and his twin brother, the favored prince, openly mocks him. When an Oracle declares Haden the year's Champion, all hell breaks loose--literally. No one believes Haden is up for the task. The Oracle must have made an escape. Prince Rowan is an Elite, trained to be Chosen. Why should the disgraced prince without any training get all the glory? Yet the Oracle's word is binding, and Haden is sent to the Mortal World with a task: He has six months to find a girl named Daphne Raines and convince her to come with him to the Underrealm.
Daphne, on the other hand, has no clue that she's been chosen to become the Cypher and restore what has been stolen from the Underlords. She's more worried about the fact that her deadbeat rockstar dad has showed up after all these years to claim custody. He removes her from her mother and the only home she's ever known in Ellis Fields, moving them across to Olympus Hills, California. Once there, Daphne is accosted by a strange guy who tries to convince her to come away with him, but over time, she comes to know him as her classmate Haden and begins to care for him, never knowing his dangerous mission...
I love the way Daphne lived in Ellis Fields and moved to Olympus Hills. Not exactly subtle, but a little mix of the mythological thrown into the real world. You can tell right away that something more is at play, too. A controlling mother who never lets Daphne leave her small town? A father whose seen her maybe four times in her life suddenly being granted full custody? I also liked the small touches. If you're going to live in a mythologically-inspired town, you'd better have cute names for where you live such as Athena Way! I also like the way Daphne goes to a special performing arts school that gets to do amazing things. Rather than put on West Side Story or Into the Woods like every other high school in the world, Daphne gets to be part of shaping and developing a brand-new rock opera entitled Into the Dark, and the students get to work with legendary rock star Joe Vince...aka, Daphne's deadbeat dad. I'm huge on Broadway, and would love such an amazing opportunity. To shape and develop a musical and work with experienced talent? Awesome! Plus, the musical is centered around the mythological tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. I want this musical to be real...I'll go to NYC right now and see it!
There's some mystery involved throughout the story as well. Before Haden confuses the truth behind his mission to Daphne, she's in cahoots with her classmate Tobin to figure out why girls in Olympus Hills are disappearing every three years...and why Daphne's name is next on the Mayor's secret list. Tobin is desperate to solve the mystery because his sister is one of the missing...and his mother the Mayor apparently knows more than she's saying. At first, all the characters and subplots were a little much, but they all came together in an interesting way by the novel's conclusion. At the end, I had the sudden sensation that I was watching the Scooby Gang solve their problems in a brand-new episode of Buffy, and man, what a feeling! I miss the dynamic of that team. It was really intriguing to suddenly find a literary group that reminded me so much of them!
I'm eager to see where the series goes and how Despain adds more mythology and lore into the series, while still continuing to spin it into a unique idea of her own, a retelling of nothing. I can't wait to explore the characters in more details and learn more about them, especially Haden as he continues to evolve and split from his roots and characters who were secondary and slowly gaining bigger roles. It will be interesting to see where we go from here!