I'm going to be flat-out honest about this one: The Shrew Untamed is not Shakespeare. It's written as a sequel to The Taming of the Shrew, but the reader should not go into this expecting the vivid language or clever wordplay of the Bard.
Fortunately, I love Shakespeare so much that I never go into anything expecting the Bard, so I liked it. The premise is always a fun one: let's revisit one of a happily-ever-after, one year later. I particularly liked the idea of revisiting The Taming of the Shrew as it's a fun play but leaves kind of a sour aftertaste when you look back on it from the perspective of a modern, independent woman. The idea that the shrew could be on the other foot was an even more entertaining touch (haha, I slay me).
Carter does a pretty good job retaining the characters of the original. He wisely skirts the flowery language and lets the original couples converse in modern prose. This is not just a relief for those who are not fans of Early Modern English (I am a fan, but I don't mind), but also maintains their personality without a direct comparison. Thus, we can easily believe that Kate and Petruchio have grown into a fond couple and Bianca has evolved into the spoiled child we see now. No, it's not all her fault, but Lucentio is more acting "like a guy" than actually abusing her. Bianca's just a pain - though I don't blame her for being angry when he chases her around the room. That's a disturbing scenario for anyone. Our heroes Kate and Petruchio, on the other hand, are less disturbing and much more entertaining. Petruchio's delight in his wife is worth a smile, while Kate's logic in developing her mind and the way she expresses her feelings for Petruchio near the end are admirable (and slightly reminiscent of 10 Things I Hate About You).
Carter also, in a very Shakespearean way, adds a third subplot to intertwine with our first two couples. While the characters behave in the ways you would expect in such a play, I was disappointed in the fact that he chose to make their subplot musical. The lyrics were nothing special, and the resulting comparison was the reason why I was so happy the story began in prose. I also wished the plots would have intertwined more, as the plays generally would. I think the new characters would have been better developed and I in turn would have then been more invested in them.
Among other details that disappointed me were the complete lack of Grumio, which I didn't understand from a story point of view. I don't feel that his absence accomplished anything in the plot, but his character was originally so rich. I also disliked the lack of resolution between Bianca and Lucentio. It seems uncharacteristic of a story like this to leave a plotline unfinished like that, and a little off for Kate and Petruchio to leave it that way.
Of course, their ending was exactly what I would have wanted from them, and an excellent reparation for that Taming of the Shrew discomfort.
As an aside, thank you to James Carter for the download coupon. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review a fun story!