Title: Into the Dark Book #1: The Shadow Prince
Author: Bree Despain
No. of Pages: 496
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Release Date: 11 March 2014
Bottom Line: Fantastic twist on Greek mythology
“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.
A pulsating romance of epic proportions, Bree Despain’s The Shadow Prince will leave her fans breathless for the next book in the Into The Dark series.”
Thoughts: As with any story involving the Greek gods, fate and predestination are major issues within The Shadow Prince. However, Ms. Despain adds her own unique spin by adding the idea of choice, something not typically associated with the gods. Haden and Daphne may be destined for each other, but they do not have to end up together. By the end of the novel, their relationship is still tenuous enough to be subject to change. This is an exciting twist in the god canon because there is no obvious and set path for any of the characters. This means that anything can happen, and it creates infinite possibilities for the main story arc and future stories in the series.
Not only does Ms. Despain amend the idea of fate within the story, she also adjusts the mythos. Hades is conspicuously absent from the Underworld, something fully explained until the end of the book. The animosity between the Underlords and the Skylords is a fascinating twist, as is the origination of the Underlords. The cult followers of each God are not new, but the rewards for following certainly take unique forms. Finally, there is the idea of an asylum, a place where humans and demi-gods can stay without fear of reprisal from the gods. Ms. Despain’s version of the gods mythology is different enough to create a freshness for mythology fans and entice new ones for whom the Greek myths are unknown.
Daphne is a riot. Opinionated and confident, she knows what she wants and is not afraid to take chances to get it. She also is unusually honest with herself and about others. She recognizes her inner vulnerabilities and accepts them, even as she chides herself for them. She has no fear of calling someone out and does so with Haden quite frequently, to a reader’s perpetual enjoyment. Her reaction to Haden’s inept wooing is priceless and a refreshing alternative to the other teen heroines who accept boorish behavior as true love without a moment’s hesitation. Her role in the story remains cloudy, but there is no doubt she has the fierce determination, talent, and strength of character to play an essential part in whatever unfolds.
Haden is a perfect foil for Daphne, or vice versa. His arrogance and quick realization of his lack of preparedness for his quest is amusing and touching. His first few fumbling attempts to talk to Daphne are hilarious in their clumsiness. Yet, for all his pride and egotism, he wears his vulnerability more openly than does Daphne. It is this difference which allows readers to overlook the pricklier aspects of his character and accept him in spite of his gaffes and rather crude behavior. As with Daphne, his potential remains obscure but palpable, and the anticipation about future reveals – of his power, of his growth, of his fate – is high.
The only true questionable area within the story is the addition of two secondary characters and their inclusion on Daphne’s and Haden’s journey. While the rest of the story unfolds adroitly, well-plotted and well-written, the appearance of these characters and the swiftness with which they accept Haden’s story feels forced. It is as if she is repeating the quest process by providing the necessary entourage. The fact that the entourage exists is a distinct difference to all of the changes Ms. Despain makes to the myths, and one can only hope she will add another unique spin to the prerequisite.
The Shadow Prince is an exciting and fun twist on the Hades myth. With its Underlords and Boons, Champions, gates, keys, rules, and limitations, this is not your parents’ Underworld, and that is a good thing. Daphne is the intellectual equal to any god or goddess and has a matter-of-fact approach to the proceedings that provides entertainment and a much-needed reality check. Haden is brooding and dark as befitting not only a young adult paranormal love interest but also a lord of the Underworld. However, he remains vulnerable and open and recognizes his limitations. He understands the need to change and, more importantly, learns to identify when he is wrong and when others may have better ideas. Daphne and Haden play to each other’s’ strengths, making it one of the few young adult relationships that does not require one holding power – literal or figurative – over another.
The story itself moves quickly but never so quickly as to lose readers in a mire of unanswered questions. Ms. Despain does provide many an answer and plenty of world-building for readers, but she does so slowly, metering out bits and pieces throughout the novel. She thereby requires readers to use their imagination, their prior mythological knowledge, and patience until such time as she can give a full explanation without interrupting the flow of the narrative. A reader never worries about the unfamiliar backdrop, however, as the story is simply too engrossing and both Haden and Daphne are too entertaining. The Shadow Prince is the type of novel in which readers continually want to read just one more page only to find out that they are at the end of the first book. Readers will still want to read one more page, so hopefully, Ms. Despain does not take too long to write the sequel.