THIS BOOK IS EVERYTHING AND I LOVE IT MORE THAN WORDS CAN DESCRIBE
However, I will try.
I completely and utterly loved Capin's first book, The Dead Queens Club. It is honestly one of the best books I have ever read about Henry VIII and his many wives. I know it seems strange to say that about a YA book told through the lens of a bunch of high-schoolers, but just trust me on it, okay? Especially with how perfectly she captured the essence and naivety of Katherine Howard, in Katie; my heart broke a million times for her in the book, just as it does for the real Katherine Howard.
OBVIOUSLY I am going to love Capin's second "retelling", right? RIGHT!
Okay, to be honest I was a little nervous at first because a lot of people said how violent it was and blah blah blah and I am sitting here thinking the whole time as I am reading these silly reviews, do they not know it is based on Macbeth? Is it more violent or bloody than the original material? Apparently they did not, in fact, know because when I finally got it from the library I dove in head first and LOVED EVERY FUCKING MOMENT OF IT.
The main character begins the story as Elle. She and her best friends, her coven, Mads, Summer, and Jenny, rule their world. They are rich and beautiful and everything belongs to them. The night Elle turns sixteen, the girls crash a party thrown by boys from St. Andrew's Prep. Elle becomes separated from her friends, and the golden boys of St Andrew's, they choose Elle as their next victim. Though we are thankfully spared the details of Elle being gang-raped by a group of the boys, there are flashback and references aplenty.
Little do these boys realize, they've picked the wrong girl.
Or perhaps, because of what happens over the course of the novel, they absolutely picked the right one.
The Queen shall have her revenge, and she will raise up a King, one of their own, to bring them all down.
Elle tells her parents that she was raped, but lies about where/when/who. They tell her they will do anything for her, and she says she wants to transfer schools. So she does. To St. Andrew's Prep. Now reborn as Jade (Elle's middle name), she will destroy the golden boys from the inside. She will befriend their girls, and she will make them all pay. Mack is a means to an end. He was not involved in her rape, but he is one of them, the nice one but still a golden boy. Never mind that though. Jade will manipulate anyone she needs to in order to get her revenge, and her coven is with her every step of the way.
I want to express all my feelings about this book but in a way that does not spoil anything because this book is so beautiful and savage and magical and raw. I am not really sure how to do that, honestly. I might ramble. Not often do books leave me grasping for words that are all jumbled in my head, that I can't actually articulate aside from shouting, "JUST READ THE BOOK AND YOU WILL UNDERSTAND!" But I will try again.
The girls are ruthless, and I cheered Jade on every fucking step of the way. This is peak revenge fantasy and if people can't appreciate that for what it is, then too bad for them. (Seriously, I saw way too many reviews bemoaning the fact that Jade's parents never filed a police report after she told them she had been raped. Um HELLO! There would have been no story then. Shut the fuck up.) The golden boys tried to break her, thought they had succeeded. They took her power but watching her regain it and more - taking their power as well, and at their expense - was fucking beautiful. Honest to God, this is one of the most powerful books I have ever read and though I finished it weeks ago now, I can still feel it in my bones, in my soul. The story is in me and alive and is glorious even in its darkness.
Capin's writing style is unique here, as it is not entirely prose in the traditional sense, but it is prose, and that doesn't make sense I realize, but trust me. There are times where it becomes this stream of consciousness that flows on and on. Most often though there is a lyrical, poetic quality to the narrative that fits so well with the story itself, and also as this female-centered re-imagining of one of Shakespeare's greatest plays. If you are familiar with Macbeth you will recognize right away familiar names and lines, and it is comfortable even as the massacre begins. I was hooked from the first page and stayed up late, until I was finished with the book - what is a few hours sleep when reading a book that sinks it teeth and claws into you and won't let go? Nothing, that's what.
I am not sure how I expected the book to end, because I was so caught up in each moment, each golden boy coming to his perfectly perfect brutal end, that it did not occur to me that pretty soon they would all be dead and then what? The action kept going, right up until the very last pages, and I was nearly breathless at the end trying to understand everything that had just happened.
This is easily one of my favorite books of 2020 and I will read everything Hannah Capin ever writes (which I also said after I finished The Dead Queens Club). I noticed on Goodreads this is now listed a "book #1", so I am very curious as to how this could become a series? Even though perhaps not every question was answered, I don't think they all have to be. I think the end was brilliant, and wouldn't change a thing.
HIGHLY HIGHLY A MILLION TIMES RECOMMENDED.