What if Romeo had survived the events of Romeo and Juliet and, still determined to be reunited with his lost love in the afterlife, seeks out the help of no one other than Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, in order to make it happen? This is a great idea for a movie or a book, right? And Jenny Trout did it in this book, which is her first foray into young adult literature. Trout has been around for while, having published bestsellers like American Vampire and the Blood Ties series under the name Jennifer Armintrout and The Boss series, which Mara Wilson recommended during her Twitter war with E. L. James, under the name Abigail Barnette. Such Sweet Sorrow tells the story of Hamlet’s and Romeo’s journey into the Underworld to reunite Romeo with his beloved Juliet.
At the recommendation of an Italian strega, Romeo and Friar Laurence journey to Denmark to seek out Prince Hamlet of Denmark, who would be able to help them to access the passageway into the Underworld. Hamlet is still reeling from the death of his father, which he suspects to be a murder. The ghost of his father has appeared to him and revealed to him that he has inherited the position of guardian of the passageway to the Afterfjord, the land of the dead, that lies under Elsinore Castle. Hamlet is charged with keeping this secret from his uncle, King Claudius, as well as hiding his ability to see and speak with the dead. When he meets Romeo and Friar Laurence in a local tavern and hears their tale, he decides to help the young Italian man with what he considers to be a fool’s errand. But things don’t go as planned, and Hamlet ends up trapped in the Afterfjord with Romeo. Grudgingly, he agrees to help Hamlet rescue Juliet and to find a way to return to the land of the living.
Juliet is found in Sheol, and Romeo releases her from an eternal sleep. The trio then sets out to retrieve the three keys that will open a door to the world of the living so that they might return home. On the way, they journey through strange lands, encounter mythical beings, and battle monsters. We see the characters grow and change throughout their quest, especially Juliet, whose newfound circumstances enable her to discover some new things about herself that she had not known during her lifetime. Romeo and Juliet’s love for one another only grows deeper throughout the novel, and Hamlet’s reluctant partnership with Romeo develops into a hearty friendship with both Romeo and Juliet.
Trout not only delivers a plot-driven story with intriguing characters, but also includes aspects of different mythology in building her Afterfjord. We encounter sirens, valkyries, and even the Norns, or the Norse fates, and there are even nods to Dante Alighieri’s Inferno. All in all, Such Sweet Sorrow is a great read, one that’s perfect for a literature aficionado who’s looking for a light read. There is just a slight hint that this could be the first book in a series, and I certainly hope that Trout gives us more, because I’m dying to see what else might happen with these wonderful characters into which Trout has breathed so much life!
I received an advanced review copy of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for my fair and honest review.