Still Star-Crossed by Melinda Taub
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
After reading Romeo and Juliet, I couldn't help but wonder: "What happens now?"
Melinda Taub's novel aims to answer that question, and many of the other ones that readers may ask after finishing Romeo and Juliet. Unsurprisingly, the Montagues and Capulets–who entered a dubious truce in the aftermath of their children's deaths–are still feuding, unable to suppress the animosity rooted in their bloodline. Intending to quell the dissension that is plaguing his city, Prince Escalus of Verona devises a plan in which he arranges for a member of the house of Montague–Benvolio, Romeo's cousin– to marry a member of the house of Capulet–Rosaline, Juliet's cousin and Romeo's first love (before he meets Juliet). Neither Benvolio nor Rosaline are thrilled about the prospect of an arranged marriage with one another, and they form an initially unenthusiastic alliance in order to put an end to their engagement.
Rosaline is independent and strong-willed, and she develops as a character. While Benvolio also undergoes a significant amount of moral growth, his personality is rather muted, but his chemistry with Rosaline makes up for his blandness. While their relationship is the main highlight of the novel,
another surprisingly appealing element is mystery. There are clues, red herrings, buildup, and an ultimate reveal that is well-executed though somewhat predictable. It's no Agatha Christie mystery, but it's interesting enough.
One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is the dialogue. All characters speak Shakespearean English, complete with "thees" and "thous". The setting is undoubtedly Shakespearean, and the re-imagining of supporting characters from Romeo and Juliet makes Taub's continuation of the tragedy vivid and creative. Yet one of the weakest points of the novel (and one of the main reasons why I rate this book three stars and not four) is the inclusion of a love triangle–one with a predictable outcome–that distracts from the mystery at the core of the plot and slows the story progression.
Overall, Still Star-Crossed is a good book with an enjoyable plot and a compelling protagonist, and I'm looking forward to seeing how Shondaland's new show will provide its own take on the novel!
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