Review: Juliet Immortal – Stacey Jay

juliet immortal - stacey jay

“These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume.”
—Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

The most tragic love story in history…

Juliet Capulet didn’t take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn’t anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she’s fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent.

Until the day she meets someone she’s forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love.

I first heard about this book through my friend Angel @ Mermaid Vision Books (who was also amazing enough to give me a copy), and though I knew nothing about it (other than the fact that it obviously somehow had something to do with Romeo and Juliet) I was intrigued. Mostly because of the cover. (It’s so absolutely beautiful, and I love the “forsaken debutante” feel I get from it. It’s a shame that it’s only symbolic of Juliet’s feelings in the book — it would have made a spectacular scene in the story if the cover actually did happen, and she was somehow abandoned on a rock in the middle of the ocean, but most YA novels these days don’t seem to relate to their covers directly, if at all.)

What I love about this book is the concept. Romeo and Juliet has been proven to be timeless, but so many people (like myself) are unsatisfied with the “love at first sight” ploy. It’s difficult to believe that two pre-teens, one of whom claimed he was in love with another person who did not return his affections just moments ago, could fall in love that quickly, that instantaneously, at a party without really speaking to each other. And to risk everything — their family, their reputations, their lives for this immediately-occurring love? It would have to be insane, right? Juliet Immortal thinks so too. In the novel, Stacey Jay almost parodies the idea that Romeo and Juliet truly fell in love at that age, that quickly, that intensely. She demonstrates that it isn’t love, not really — Romeo is merely a conniving, lying bastard, and Juliet is simply naive enough to believe him. Throw in some dangerous, dark forces, a battle between two supernatural entities (“good” versus “evil” with several shades of grey), and an ongoing quest, and you have Stacey Jay’s retelling of this iconic love story.

Though, to be honest, Juliet Immortal cannot truly be classified as a “Romeo and Juliet retelling”. Although the classic story is partially rewritten, this book continues some time after Shakespeare’s play ends, and the characters are able to change and grow. Especially Juliet, who — after much time has passed — is able to develop into a headstrong, independent (or rather, as independent as she can be, given the circumstances), brave young woman, who learns from her past mistakes and isn’t so wholeheartedly-trusting (in the name of love!) anymore. She sees people, especially Romeo, more clearly, and she recognizes and regrets the mistakes of her adolescence. On the other hand, Romeo isn’t completely evil, and Stacey Jay makes sure to not only humanize him (at least a little), but also to demonstrate that the characters and occurrences in this world are not as clearly black and white as the summary would have you believe. There are several sides to each story, and between Juliet’s version of the events, her own memories, Romeo’s, and everything the Ambassadors tell her, the truth is not what it seems. From the unbelievable suspense to Stacey Jay’s beautiful prose, I absolutely loved guessing where the novel would take me next, and even when things happened exactly the way I presumed, I enjoyed seeing Juliet to the end of her story.

Spoilery Scribbles

I really enjoyed the fact that Ben and Juliet actually got to know each other (for at least three days, but hey, it’s a step up from the original, and those three days felt so much longer, given all the events that took place in that time frame) before they claimed “love”. Which is sad because there is a scene in the ending when, in an alternate reality, Ben and Juliet’s relationship is restarted. And it’s just as flimsy and fast and unrealistic as Romeo and Juliet’s from Shakespeare’s play. Maybe it’s because I don’t believe in the idea of “love at first sight” at all, or maybe it’s because literally four seconds before they start flirting and kissing, Benvolio was believing Juliet to be married to Romeo and they had just met each other (again)… Either way, it felt like everything before then, the actual relationship these characters built throughout the story before the time frame shifted backwards, was abandoned for this sham, and the only difference is that instead of jumping into an insta!love relationship with fickle, selfish Romeo, Juliet now has Ben, a kinder, sweeter alternative.

I’ll admit I was a little confused about how the “Ambassadors occupy living bodies” thing worked, but I eventually caught on and within the rules of Juliet Immortal’s universe, it did make sense (even though the idea of Juliet’s soul being inside Ariel’s body did initially creep me out). It’s a unique concept, and vastly different from any kind of body/soul possession I’ve ever seen in fiction.

I’m not a huge fan of the teenage angst Juliet, Gemma, and Ben experienced, but I understand that it had everything to do with the “making two soul mates bond” plot, and I did find that interesting. And if you’re masquerading as a high school student and messing with love lives, angst is probably inevitable. Even if it was sometimes a little on the melodramatic side…

This book employs (some) switching points-of-view. It only happens once in the beginning and once in the end. I generally tend to stay away from books that do this just because, most of the time, it is both out-of-place and distracting, though I did enjoy the insight they provided into Romeo’s psyche. However, they still felt random, and I think they would have been better served in the sequel (Romeo Redeemed).

Overall, I felt that Juliet Immortal was a refreshing and intriguing take on a familiar story (and its aftermath). Stacey Jay illuminates Romeo and Juliet as a story of misguided teenage love infatuation, and instead, tells the tale of a strong female protagonist struggling to survive in the aftermath of a bad adolescent decision. Fans of supernatural love stories (or fans of stories that turn “love at first sight” upside down) will enjoy it.



8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ChristasBooks
    Dec 03, 2012 @ 16:16:11

    I’m a fan of stories that turn “love at first sight” upside down! Had overlooked this book when it originally came out, but maybe I need to reconsider it


    • aimee
      Dec 03, 2012 @ 19:58:16

      Awesome! It’s one of those books that took me by surprise because I figured it would just be another modern Romeo and Juliet. And I’m not a huge fan of supernatural love stories (because most of them just aren’t original or engaging). But I enjoyed reading this book, and I hope you do too!


  2. Jen (@Almost_Grown_up)
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 13:13:41

    This one really didn’t do it for me, but maybe that’s because while I don’t buy the INSTA-ness of Romeo & Juliet, I did think that they loved each other and… it’s one of those pairings that I think of as FACT, so turning them into enemies, etc really bothered me, haha.

    (Like if someone messed with the miracle romance… I’d have a REALLY BIG PROBLEM)


    • aimee
      Dec 05, 2012 @ 13:28:36

      Oh, I can totally understand that. If Romeo and Juliet was one of those ships I truly believed in, the whole concept of this would really bother me too.

      (OH GOD. THAT WOULD DESTROY ME. I would probably stop reading immediately because I wouldn’t believe it at all It would be unimaginable and completely impossible. Unless it’s like the five seconds in the manga with Endou or the last Dark Kingdom arc when Endymion is brainwashed (but even then, he needed to be brainwashed several times to even forget he loved Usagi BECAUSE THEY ARE THAT EPIC). Because even then, he’d still have to fight his feelings for her, and it would be obvious he felt SOMETHING towards her, and part of him would just… fall in love with her all over again because they’re Usagi and Mamoru and Serenity and Endymion and that is just what they do. And when the brainwashing would be over and he’d have his memories back, Mamoru always clings to Usagi like he never wants to let her go again (even though he’ll just be a brainwash or death target in like… the next week) because it hurt him so much to have to be her enemy, even though he couldn’t do anything about it.)

      (…I have the urge to write U/M fnfiction now. Thanks Jen. I blame you.)


  3. Jen (@Almost_Grown_up)
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 11:05:35

    (I accept your blame and revel in it. Also, YES UNTHINKABLE. Can I tell you how annoyed I get when I browse the SM tag on tumblr and see Seiya/Usagi shippers? I just DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW…)


    • aimee
      Dec 06, 2012 @ 18:59:28

      Seiya/Usagi seem to be “trendy” ship to ship. There’s really no basis for it. But the majority consensus is “Mamoru (in the anime) is a jackass, so that means… Usagi belongs with this person whom she doesn’t even feel anything for, just because he is the only other person aside from Mamoru to express interest in her”. Which makes no sense whatsoever. There’s a smaller amount of people who think Mamoru belongs with Rei (JUST BECAUSE REI IN THE ANIME WAS DELUSIONAL AND CALLED IT DATING AND MAMORU WAS TOO NICE NOT TO BE RUDE WHENEVER HE TRIED TO TURN HER DOWN, DOESN’T MEAN THEY ACTUALLY WERE DATING), and so Usagi should just go be with someone who actually likes her, but these people annoy me as much as those who believe Mamoru is a jerk. (Okay, actually, the Mamo-chan haters annoy me more because it’s like people in Harry Potter fandom who claim that Snape “deserved” Lily more than James, and those people need to go away.)

      Haha, sorry, this conversation is out of control. I’m going to end up writing posts that will only lead to ship wars, and that’s obviously not what this blog is for. ^^;; XD (BUT DAMMIT, THESE THINGS MAKE ME SO ANGRY. LEAVE MY “SO-CANON-IT-HURTS” SHIP ALONE, TUMBLR.)


  4. LillyLilac
    Dec 11, 2012 @ 02:19:01

    I haven’t read this book but it sounds interesting but I find it really weird that Romeo ended up being evil because based off the play Romeo and Juliet if someone was to ask me which character would make a better villain I’d say Juliet because she seemed more logical and calm than Romeo who came off as a lovesick little boy who had no idea what love is and likes to rush into things. Anyways this retelling and beyond version of events sounds really interesting with an evil Romeo and what ever that soul bond thing is.

    I really love it whenever there’s more than one characters point of view in a book in fact I’ve been known to check out books just because there’s more than one characters point of view but it does seem a bit odd that Romeo’s perspective is only shown twice in the whole book if it’s a multiple perspective book so maybe that’s part of the reason it feels awkward because I’ve read quite a few multiple perspective books and most of them transistion to different viewpoint characters flawlessly.


    • aimee
      Dec 11, 2012 @ 17:50:41

      That’s actually an interesting point. I kind of assumed Romeo would be the “evil” one because he’s older than Juliet in the original play, and she’s like… 13/14, so she wouldn’t know any better and would be easily taken advantage of (which is kind of the idea this book monopolizes on).

      I love multi-perspective books when there’s some kind of balance and a connection between the points of view, but also something to be gained by the second perspective. In books like Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares or The Future of Us, where there are two characters and two perspectives and every other chapter is the same character’s POV (so there’s an order to it and it’s organized well), if it’s well written and the story calls for it, it usually works really well and I love the way it’s utilized, and what the POVs bring to the novel. But two random chapters in another character’s perspective don’t really work well (it just seems so out of place), unless it’s a book like Cinder, where, while there isn’t an order to it, because it’s third person POV, and the story does call for it, the sort of omniscient narration is welcome. I guess you’re right – it really comes down to the transition.


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