Usually when I think of a book being described as "epic", that book is a lengthy piece of fantasy or a nonfictional history tome. However, I think "epic" is great word to describe Juliet by Anne Fortier.
Set in Siena, Italy - rather than Verona - Julie's story alternates with that of the Guilietta Tolomei in the 1340's. The history and culture of this story-within-the-story are brought to life in beautiful detail. The tale that is unraveled is presented as historical fact, bearing only faint resemblance to the popular play it evolved into.
As Julie unravels clues to her family's ancient past, she finds that the parts of the story Shakespeare got right may have huge implications for her future. Along with a "plague" that seems to have cursed her family for several generations, Julie wonders if she is destined to fall for a Romeo of her own. She can only hope that this time the tale will have a happier ending.
I really enjoyed this story and found the rich landscape of Italy to be enchanting in both the present and past portions of the book. Though there were a few spells when the narrative seemed to drag, for the most part I found the story intriguing and enjoyable. Fortier did a great job of creating a precursor to Romeo and Juliet and tying it nicely to a modern story. Even with such well-known, frequently reinvented source material, Fortier managed to take a new spin on Shakespeare, and Juliet is a book to be enjoyed by fans of the bard as well as those looking for a freshly original work.