Author: Jenny Trout
Publishing House: Entangled Teen
Publication: 4th February 2014
Review written by Lady Entropy
(ARC given by Netgalley)
Never was there a tale of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo…But true love never dies. Though they’re parted by the veil between the world of mortals and the land of the dead, Romeo believes he can restore Juliet to life, but he’ll have to travel to the underworld with a thoroughly infuriating guide.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, may not have inherited his father’s crown, but the murdered king left his son a much more important responsibility—a portal to the Afterjord, where the souls of the dead reside. When the determined Romeo asks for help traversing the treacherous Afterjord, Hamlet sees an opportunity for adventure, and the chance to avenge his father’s death.
Jenny Trout suffers from what I like to call “The Cassandra Claire Syndrome”: I loved everything that Cassandra wrote “for fun” like the Very Secret Diaries, but give me one of her books and I’m not running out of the room fast enough.
I like this author, a LOT. Unfortunately, not her books. I just think she’s a riot and a half in her 50 Shades reviews, and everything she writes in her blog. But all the books I read from her left me wanting.
And this one is pretty much the same.
The concept intrigued me enough to ask for the ARC (and I’ve become very careful of what ARCs I ask of, since I have way too many books and not enough time), and, on a positive note, it didn’t crash and burn as I feared it would. Shakespeare Crossover Stories seems the type of thing that could go either horribly bad or amazingly awesomely – I was expecting something in the lines of when Captain America and Thor go to hell to rescue Thor’s beloved and you have them fight hordes of zombies. No such luck. A lot of accident and coincidence push the plot forward, a little too much than I’m comfortable with, and way too much time is spent talking and arguing. I know that they’re trying to show how their friendship develops, slowly, but Hamlet and Romeo bitch and complain from the start and don’t even have the least bit of politeness to each other that two strangers normally should have.
Also, apparently, everyone’s fluent in latin. Look, I studied latin. It’s not a very good language to have complex talks in, especially if you’re not a priest who does nothing but study it, or a native Ancient Roman. Of course, these are just minor things, but some minor things are jarring. Like making Romeo 18 years of age. Now, I’ll give you, his age has been set at 16-ish, so with the year that went by, he could have turned 17\18, true. But then it only remained creepier the fact that Juliet was 13 — the author tries to smooth it by stating she was 15, but instead of making it less creepy, it makes her look uneducated because Juliet is the one with her age being openly stated in the play — 13 years of age. I wound up not knowing whether to be irritated or creeped out.
The rest of the book lost me because it wound up feeling like a video game: the protagonists stumble on the next bit of plot, find Juliet, rescue her, and then they start finding helpful NPCs who give them quests to end up leaving hell: they find bosses to fight, they have to find three bits of an artefact (the keys) that will allow them to leave hell (making us wonder then, if Odin didn’t want people leaving\controlling hell, why would he keep that artefact in hell to begin with? Why not, say, keep it with himself?) I think the main issue with this book is that it didn’t have a defined villain. Sure, maybe hell could count as the main baddie, but it was just too shifting and changing, and it lacked any ambiance or despair. Ultimately, this felt more like a D&D game, made of small multiple encounters with really no rhyme or reason or even purpose rather than spend time. The characters keep getting separated, which is understandably traumatic if you’re a living person in hell, but after the third time, it starts getting to be a really really worn way to increase the stakes, and loses all impact.
The motivations of the characters, especially the secondary ones, were very nebulous (why would the Crows of Odin be interested in helping Fenrir? Why would Fenrir want to commit suicide to avoid fighting Odin when he could just be brought back to life?)
Ultimately, there were some good moments in the book, like the explanation for Hamlet to see the ghost of his father, hence not having a lower rating, and a lot of fighting although the author can’t describe a fight to save her life. She tries putting some purple prose here and there, but it just doesn’t help at all. The ending was just confusing, so I wound up rereading it to make sure I didn’t miss something.
And then the book ends with sequel bait. I wanted to laugh.
This is one of those books I don’t know whether to recommend or tell people to stay well away from. I suspect some people will like it for the sheer novelty of it, but if you go in expecting romance, you’ll get very few moments (which, I admit, I was grateful for).