The Shadow Prince (Into the Dark, book one)
By Bree Despain
Published 2014 by Egmont
Haden has been sent on a quest to the human realm. He must find a girl named Daphne and convince her to return with him to the Underrealm. Daphne has dreams of being a famous singer, so when her long-absent but superstar father wants to whisk her away to a prestigious performing arts school, she can't resist. Little does she know that it will bring her right into Haden's proximity. But Haden is about to discover that his quest is even more difficult than he imagined - Daphne is putting up a fight.
I spotted this e-galley a few months ago and thought the premise sounded interesting. I'm almost always up for a book that explores mythology in a new way or retells a classic story. I've never read a book by Despain before, so I thought I'd give it a shot.
I admit, I went in a little apprehensively. A friend of mine had read Despain's earlier book, The Dark Divine, and found it basically atrocious, so I approached this book with a bit of caution. And, admittedly, it is, at times, quite a silly book. The relationship between Daphne and Haden feels very unsurprising; this is the sort of conflict I've seen a million times before. Additionally, it seems like Despain is trying a bit too hard at times with the names - Haden, Ellis Fields, Olympus High, Apollo Canyon, etc. Also, she seems to try too hard to make readers root for both characters. Haden and Daphne alternate narrating chapters and Despain has created a traumatic childhood backstory for Haden that I think is supposed to instill a great feeling of empathy in readers. It seemed a little much for me, though. Finally, not much about this book is terribly surprising - the story plays out pretty much as one would expect, though this is only the first in a series, so there is still a lot of time left in Haden's quest.
All that being said, I'd say I still enjoyed the book. It's lengthy - over 500 pages - but it read much faster than that. The alternating viewpoints do help to keep the story moving and the action helps as well. Like I said, I like books that base their story in mythology, so, despite the name overkill, I enjoyed finding out which myths Despain would touch upon and how she would alter them for her purposes. All in all, I'd say it's pretty likely that I'll pick up book two and I imagine this book will find a good audience.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.