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Review: The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain

Review: The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain
The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain
Series: Into the Dark #1
Published by Egmont
Published on: March 11 2014
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 512
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
One StarOne Star
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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.

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Generally speaking, there are two types of YA books. There are YA books that take place in the modern world in which the MC(s) are 18 or almost 18 and therefore an “adult” and not completely subject to the rules and restrictions of their parents, OR they take place in a post-apocalyptic or fantasy world where age is only obliquely relevant b/c there’s no such thing as high school, and everyone from adolescence onward is expected to contribute like an adult. Then there are YA books that are fully immersed in the high school culture, complete with mean girls, stifling parental units, and no-one-understands-me-I’m-so-alone mentalities.

I very much enjoy many of the former . . . less so the latter. HOWEVER, that is not the genre’s fault. It is my own personal preference. I regularly gift YA books that I probably wouldn’t enjoy much myself to my 14 y.o. sister, and she LOVES them. The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain is one such book.

The basic premise:

Daphne Raines feels smothered by her mother. In Daphne’s defense, her mom truly is a hard case—she refuses to ever let Daphne leave the tiny town they live in. As in N-E-V-E-R. The girl has had her learner’s permit for over a year, but she can’t get her driver’s license b/c she can’t accrue the required practice driving hours in said tiny town, and her mom won’t let her go anywhere else to get them. Why not? you ask. Because BAD things are out there in the world and they will get you (think Mother Gothel from Tangled only with good intentions). So when Daphne’s deadbeat (God of Rock) dad suddenly shows up, claiming that a judge has granted him full custody, and that he’s whisking her away to California where he’s enrolled her in an elite, private school that will nurture her musical talent, Daphne immediately agrees to go.

Haden Lord is the disowned son of Ren Hades, King of the Underworld. Ceaselessly mocked and ridiculed by his peers (including his twin brother, the favored son), Haden has a burning desire to prove his worthiness. So when the Oracle handpicks him to be Champion, the only Champion who can complete some undisclosed task, Haden latches on to the opportunity to redeem himself. But when the time comes for Haden to travel to the Overworld, all he knows about his mission is that if he has any hope of overcoming his disgrace (for actions unknown), he must find and convince Daphne Raines to go through the Persephone Gate and return with him to the Underworld in six months time.

The world-building:

Despain has taken the modern world and overlaid it with Greek mythological nuances. Except that nuance implies subtlety, and subtlety is what this book sorely lacks. The private school that both Daphne and Haden are to attend is Olympus Hills High and it is located in the affluent Olympus Hills gated community. The tiny town that Daphne grew up in is Ellis Fields. The bar where Daphne’s dad makes his deal with the proverbial devil is called Crossroads.  If Daphne had a horse, it would probably be named Pegasus. We get it.

My thoughts:

The Shadow Prince is a book that will hold immense appeal for it’s target demographic. It’s straight-forward. Daphne is a strong-ish heroine who refuses to stand idly by when someone tries to dictate her life choices. Haden is a wonderfully broken specimen of a teenage boy. Simon is creepily evil. And who doesn’t love a tiny fuzzball of a black kitten that morphs into a three-headed, car-sized monstercat when it’s angry? BUT this is no boundary-crossing YA novel. If you’re like me (WAY out of high school), I would suggest that you stick to buying this book for your younger family members/children-of-friends. They will love it, and you will be saved the aggravation.

Jessica Signature

One StarOne Star

My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.

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77 Comments

  1. I’m not a huge fan of YA and try to avoid it like the plague. There are a select few that I will read. I even read Kelley Armstrong’s middle grade books (The Blackwell Pages), which has a Norse mythology background. But any book that revolves around high school angst, leave me out.

    Thanks for your review. This is a book that I would have considered as it sounds interesting. I’m horrible at picking YA books, which is why I’ve started just staying away from them, unless someone I know can tell me NO angst involved. Even then, I’m leary.

    • Exactly. High school angst<——not my favorite.

      Did you like the first book from Armstrong's middle grade series? I have it, but I haven't read it yet (I didn't realize it was middle grade when I ordered it. I just saw Kelley Armstrong, LOL). And glad to help 😉

  2. I need that kitten in my life! But other than that I don’t think I would enjoy this one. Great review!
    Bethzaida @ Bookittyblog

  3. It sounds like a great gift for a friend’s niece. She is totally into “those books that are about my age and all our issues” aka I read that as drama LOL I am just loving that she is reading and right now she is on a “unreal” kick (she refuses to use the words fantasy and paranormal cause everyone thinks twilight which was so old school). Having conversations with her makes me feel really old 🙂

    • I’m pretty sure my 14 y.o. sister would like it too, but I cherry pick books for her. She’s like a little Carmel—she’s all about the werewolves 🙂 And she makes me feel old too. The last time I went to visit she and a friend were tying the end of their paint-splattered t-shirts in knots and wearing side-ponytails, LOL.

  4. I haven’t read this book, but for what you said it reminds me of Mythos Academy series by Jennifer Estep. Although I liked that series, I need a break from the teenager angst; so I think I’ll pass this series.

    • I actually liked Jennifer Estep’s books (through book 4 anyway, I haven’t had a chance to read the last two yet). It’s true that they were also high school-based, but the Mythos Academy books weren’t so . . . juvenile? Maybe the difference was that Estep’s books took place in a boarding school setting, which gave the kids more independence. But yeah, as far as this one goes, I don’t recommend it for anyone who needs a break from teenage angst.

  5. While Daphne’s mum sounds like someone I’d probably want to slap and yell at I’m glad that Daphne in fact is strong character. YA books that are mixed with Greek mythology usually end at my fave shelf so I think that I’d enjoy this one. Great review, Jessica 🙂

    • Well this one is definitely Greek Mythology based 🙂 And Daphne is a strong character—she doesn’t blindly follow anyone.

  6. I do love Greek mythology but I don’t know if I’d like being beaten over the head with it (though I do like the bar being named the Crossroads. Obvious but it works for a bar. The rest…meh.). This sounds like a case of a YA that’s TOO YA (and yes, I do believe that that some books firmly belong to the teen crowd. I do like a lot of YA paranormal/fantasty/scifi but some is just too-too YA.).

    • Me too. When I tally my favorite books at the end of any given year, a good portion of them are YA. This one was just, as you said, TOO YA. And I actually thought the Crossroads thing was really cool too. Especially with the girl’s dad being a musician. I had “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” stuck in my head after that 😉

  7. YA is really hit or miss with me especially when there is a school involved. I love books like Bone Season and worlds where there is no school. Great review Jessica. I do know a few peeps this would appeal too 🙂

    • Yeah, I normally try to stick to Fantasy or SciFi when I’m reading YA b/c they normally have less teeny-bopper nonsense, but I really love Greek mythology, so I gave this one a shot anyway. And I have Bone Season, but haven’t read it yet—ONE more for the list 😉

  8. Oh no, I was hoping this one would be better, especially because of the mythology. Darn it.

    Thank you for the honest review!!

    • All I can be is honest when it comes to books, LOL. I don’t have any other setting 😉 Sorry it’s not your cuppa either!

  9. Loved your review and I agree about the YA genre. I rarely find a YA book that grabs my attention completely. I requested this book on NG but was declined, maybe that is a good thing though.

    Simon does sound really awesome though.. (Simon is creepily evil. And who doesn’t love a tiny fuzzball of a black kitten that morphs into a three-headed, car-sized monstercat when it’s angry?)..

    Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.

    • If you like creepy, Simon’s your guy 😉 and the kitten (Hellcat) was admittedly adorable, but (for me) they didn’t make up for the cliques and the ridiculous parents, etc. You might like it though! I had a similarly over-protective mother, so I probably react more strongly to those kinds of situations then other people do.

  10. “Haden is a wonderfully broken specimen of a teenage boy.”

    I have to admit to being a sucker for a broken boy in YA fiction! Like you though Jessica, I’m WAY out of high school, so I can’t help but wonder if I’ll struggle with parts of this one as you did. I do love to hate a good villain, so I think I’ll enjoy Simon and all his evilness, and I kind of want a cat that transforms into a monster. for myself Just saying. I’m putting this on my “maybe” list, but I don’t think I’ll rush to read it. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Anytime, for I have lots of thoughts to spare 😉 And I’m pretty sure I have that cat, LOL.

  11. Hmm, it sounds like it would be too sophomoric for me, but I’ve seen it floating around and I have to say I’m curious! I will definitely go in with lower expectations knowing that it’s more for a younger age group. But I will probably read it just for the fluffy kitten slash monstercat ;D

    • Yes, fuzzy kitten monstercats and definitely enticing 😉 I hope you like it!

  12. I’ve actually seen relatively positive reviews for this one so I am sorry this didn’t work out for you more. 🙁

    I am pretty sure I might read this at some point but it IS a long book and I know that there is quite a bit of angst.. so when I am ‘ready’ to put up with that angst, I’ll probably read this. 😛

    Great review, Jessica!! 🙂

    • Eh. To each their own 😉 And you’re probably spot-on. If I had read this when I was feeling angsty, I probably would have liked it a lot more than I did. Oh well. One can’t be angsty ALL the time, LOL.

  13. This type of YA book is not my cup of tea (I’ve been out of high school for a while..LOL) but I really enjoyed your honest review Jessica! The cover is really pretty though and that cat sounds pretty cool! It might be one of those books I would read if I found at the library one day and wanted something different to read. 🙂

    • And of course, the good thing about the library is that if a book isn’t quite the something different you’re after, you can set it right back on the shelf. No harm, no foul. One of the MANY reasons I love libraries 😉

  14. This doesn’t sound like a book for me. I appreciate your honest review. I am liking the cat though. ^_^

    • I completely understand. Definitely not my favorite 😉 And (IMO) cats always make things more likable.

  15. I’m reaally on the fence regarding this one. So many of my friends gave it negative reviews, so I’m kiiinda scared to read it through (I do downloaded a galley of it, though). I’m glad to know that Daphne, at least, is a strong and level-headed heroine. At least we get a break from all the shitty ones we’ve gotten recently from the YA demographic! ;P

    • Yep. That’s the only reason I finished it (b/c it’s a galley). And Daphne is a more independent heroine than some of the recent ones, that’s true, but it all felt very carefully orchestrated to me, if that makes sense—like some of the situations and reactions, etc. are almost textbook. Or maybe I’ve just read too much YA and need to take a break from it 😉

  16. I have to say this sounds like a been there done that book. I am getting a bit tired of all these Greek mythology retellings. I have yet to read a glowing review for this book, I am definitely skipping it! Thanks for the honest review!

    • Right? I mean it seems like a few years ago, if you wanted Greek mythology, Percy Jackson was pretty much it. Now it’s everywhere.

  17. yes maybe for younger ones. I confess I agree with you about the YA books too. And I was just thinking that it would have annoyed me so much to be stuck in the same place.But well in a whole it’s intriguing. I confess I have a book by this author and before trying something else I should try the one I have. And well I don’t know why I’m not that attracted…

    • YES! Definitely read the other book first. That’s actually what happened to me here, only I did read the other book, and just didn’t realize that this was the same author until I’d already been approved for the galley. The writing style is very similar, so if you don’t like one, you probably won’t like the other.

  18. Oh boy! Am I glad this is not same book (same title) I just ordered when I read the review at Parajunkee’s blog. She love that book! And all I saw at first was the tittle, I was like, this doesn’t sound like anything she said..LOL. I had to go back and double check..LOL Too many books with the same title 🙁
    Thank you, this Shadow Prince won’t be making my wish list.

    • I didn’t even know there was another book out right now with the same title, LOL. Close call, right?

  19. Lol, good advice 🙂 I will listen to that

  20. LOL Cute. As long as I am aware of the target audience it taps down my annoyance a bit. 🙂 Still, a kitten like that… 😀 I would want one!!

    • Me TOO. In fact, I think I may already have one, but he’s orange, not black 😉

  21. Thanks for reviewing this Jessica! I have this on my TBR and as I just did a fluffy marathon, and not too keen on reading UF, I think I’ll read this. Been a while since I read YA.

  22. I do like the sound of Daph, but I don’t know if I am in their target audience either, it doesn’t call to me.

    • Too manynbooks in the world to waste time on the ones that don’t call to you 😉

  23. I love fantasy, but this one doesn’t sound like my thing. It almost sounds too…typical…for the YA genre; and I’ve had my fair share of teenage drama! I’m glad it at least sounds entertaining for it’s intended audience though!

    As always, brilliant review Jessica!

    • Absolutely. “Typical” is an excellent way to describe this book. But the kiddies will like it, and that’s all one can really ask of a YA book.

      And YOU are a peach 😉

  24. “And who doesn’t love a tiny fuzzball of a black kitten that morphs into a three-headed, car-sized monstercat when it’s angry?”

    This sounds like the best part of the entire book. I want one!

    • Brimstone (fuzzy monstercat) really was the best part, LOL. And I’m pretty sure I have one (except Henry is orange).

  25. This one is new to me but it sounds like something I wouldn’t like. Thanks for the great review.

  26. Sounds perfect for the younger gen! And I definitely want that cat – too bad I’m allergic. 🙂

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    • Oh no! I love cats. It’d be awful to be allergic! And I think you’re right about it being perfect for the younger gen 😉

  27. “Haden is a wonderfully broken specimen of a teenage boy. ” I literally cackled :))) So funny! Now I know I would not read this book 🙂 Fantastic review, Jessica!

    • Thanks! And poor Haden. To be subjected to such ill-use strictly for the purpose of entertaining teenage girls, LOL.

  28. Eh. I’ve gotten kind of burnt out on these kinds of stories. I still enjoy YA but I need something super unique. Your review is fantastic though, it really gives us a good idea of what we could expect from this one. So thank you! I do like Bree Despain but I’m not going to rush to buy this one.

    • I agree. If I’m going to read YA, I want it to be something original. And, I’m happy to help (this is kind of what I do for fun 😉 )

  29. Uh, uh… This doesn’t sound good. I did notice that the weakest young adult storyline is the one mixing Greek mythology and high school drama. Or maybe it’s just kind of the books that is more appealing to the younger readers.
    Great review, Jessica.

    • I definitely think that a lot of YA books right now are riding out the Percy Jackson wave. Rick Riordan has certainly made that type of story highly marketable in the demographic.

  30. It is good to know that this is better for younger YA readers. I tend to like the older or more mature YA stories a lot better where the characters are 17 or 18 and have more control in their own life. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Those are the types of YA that I prefer as well. And you’re welcome 🙂

  31. For some reason, I expected more from Despain, even though I didn’t much care for her first trilogy. But the lack of subtlety in worldbuilding would bother me immensely. This seems to be of the in-your-face variety, which I don’t appreciate.
    I am a big fan of Greek mythology, but it rarely gets used just right. I think I’ll stick to Kendare Blake for now. 🙂
    Lovely review!

    • Probably a good plan. I only included the in-your-face things in regards to the world building b/c they were what was pertinent. What I left out were the things like Daphne nick-naming her guitar “gibby.” True story.

  32. Well then. I guess I should be happy I’m currently a Sophomore in High School. Plus, I’m a huge sucker for Mythology and Retellings.

    I think my county library has it too, but I’m about to be in a pile of book trouble if I put any more holds, LOL.

    • Yeah 😉 I’m old, LOL. So the things I used to like just aren’t as fun anymore. And you won’t be in trouble! Librarians love the eager ones 🙂

  33. HAHAHAHA the Greek mythology “undertones” definitely weren’t particularly subtle, but I did sort of feel like this book is for MG/younger YA readers (as you said at the end of the review) so perhaps a bit of un-subtlety was what the book needed lol.

    I guess I did enjoy the book overall, but I did have some issues with the “romance” and there was a bit of an unfortunate lack of character development too…

    • Yeah, LOL. I think a lot of times that what is markedly unsubtle to me, is just overtly funny to someone else 😉 And there were other things I had issues with too, unfortunate lack of character development among them . . .

  34. Not sure if this story-line would do it for me. I think some YA with high-school drama can work well, but not if it gets too melodramatic. The quest Haden has to bring Daphne through the Persephone gate (really?) sounds a little too ‘made up’ to actually make me suspend enough disbelief to enjoy it.
    I might still try it one day, though, you never know, right?

    Great review, Jessica. Have a wonderful weekend.

    • Yeah . . . I’m with you. Just b/c something CAN work, doesn’t mean it does, and this one didn’t work much for me. But, like you said—you never know 😉 Thanks, Lexxie, and I hope your weekend is great too!

  35. This sounds like one I would have gobbled up when I was a teen. I’d probably still enjoy it – I laughed out loud at the obvious references. In the right frame of mind I have a blast with these kinds of books. Maybe I like to feel a bit young still lol

    • And maybe I feel old, LOL. You’re probably right, if I’d been in a different frame of mind, it wouldn’t have grated as much as it did, but clearly I wasn’t. I’ll try to keep that in mind next time 😉

  36. I saw this book and decided it wouldn’t be for me. Though this part sounds cool: “And who doesn’t love a tiny fuzzball of a black kitten that morphs into a three-headed, car-sized monstercat when it’s angry?”

    • I think that’s about the only part you would have liked. ALSO–I’ve decided to screen all unfamiliar books I’m thinking of requesting through you first, LOL.

      • Haha I’m the Book Secretary!? “No that’s not worthy of Miss Jessica’s time, next please”

      • That makes it sound awful! No, I just might get you to remind me which publishers are the one’s to avoid from time-to-time 😉

      • Sounds like a total plan! Tho I don’t avoid anyhing really oh wait maybe thats a lie….I don’t read indie except every once in a very great while after others have loved it lol.

  37. Ooh shame, my expectations for this one were high – I love Greek mythology (when done well) and the premise sounds interesting. Daphne & the fuzzy furball sound great but it seems everything else is too juvenile – I’m definitely over the angsty YA dramas. I have a galley of this one so I ‘may’ still give it a go when I’m in the right mood 😉

    A wonderful, honest review Jessica.

    • Thanks, Sharon. And yeah, this book definitely had its good parts, but ultimately it was a bit too juvenile for me. But if you’re in the mood for light and fluffy (which I am frequently, LOL), it would probably be an enjoyable read.