Genre: Fantasy, Retelling
Publisher: Tor Books on February 14, 2017
My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
Miranda is a lonely child. For as long as she can remember, she and her father have lived in isolation in the abandoned Moorish palace.There are chickens and goats, and a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree, but the elusive wild boy who spies on her from the crumbling walls and leaves gifts on their doorstep is the isle’s only other human inhabitant. There are other memories, too: vague, dream-like memories of another time and another place. There are questions that Miranda dare not ask her stern and controlling father, who guards his secrets with zealous care: Who am I? Where did I come from? The wild boy Caliban is a lonely child, too; an orphan left to fend for himself at an early age, all language lost to him. When Caliban is summoned and bound into captivity by Miranda’s father as part of a grand experiment, he rages against his confinement; and yet he hungers for kindness and love.
Jacqueline Carey’s MIRANDA AND CALIBAN is a beautifully written, heartbreaking story that is two parts prequel to and one part retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. While this book may not appeal to all readers, I was completely swept away and read it in one sitting. And have no fear: you don’t need to be a fan of the play to enjoy this!
Miranda is only six years old when her Papa first summons the wild boy to the ruined palace they call home. Completely isolated on a desert island with only her Papa for company, Miranda is overjoyed to finally have a friend…but Papa has put dark plans into motion, and Caliban is a part of them. Papa (AKA Prospero) uses his magics to bind Caliban, controlling him and Miranda both through amulets that afflict unbearable pain on their targets. Despite the circumstances of his time with them, Caliban develops a deep affection for the younger girl and she for him; as Miranda teaches the formerly mute Caliban English, the two forge a friendship that may doom them both.
If you’ve read the source material, you probably won’t find many surprises within the pages of MIRANDA AND CALIBAN, at least as far as the plot’s concerned. Carey sticks quite close to the original story, choosing to add her own interpretation of events that take place prior to those chronicled in The Tempest. I found it incredibly gripping to read about the daily lives of Miranda, Caliban, Ariel, and Prospero, and the many scenes of daily life on the island reminded me of the first part of Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest: gorgeously wrought portrayals of everyday, slightly magical activities. But if you’re looking for something with pulse-pounding action scenes or a twisty plot then you may want to steer clear!
What really propels MIRANDA AND CALIBAN forward is the creeping sense of doom that infuses the story, and the knowledge that whatever magic Prospero’s working on in his laboratorium is sure to have dire consequences for Miranda and Caliban. Adding to the tension is the fact that neither Caliban nor Miranda are ignorant of this fact, but they themselves cannot yet guess what precisely Prospero’s working on…and why it is that any of them are on this island in the first place.
Jacqueline Carey is an author I’ve been hoping to read for some time now, especially since many consider her “Kushiel’s Dart” series one of the greats of fantasy fiction; suffice it to say that her work does not disappoint. She slowly but surely puts her own twist on classic characters, using Miranda and Caliban’s POV chapters to fill in the gaps of their respective histories and personalities. Carey’s version of Caliban possesses a sweet gentleness and curiosity, while her Miranda is imbued with intelligence and a love for painting, which helped me picture them as more than just the characters from a favourite play that I studied in university. Reading Miranda’s narrative chapters grated on my nerves at times, since we see from all angles that Prospero abuses and manipulates her and yet she continues to obey and love him. In reality, that’s all perfectly in line with an abused child, but it’s difficult to take for 400 pages.
Prospero is perhaps one of the most unsettling characters I’ve read about in the last few years, not because he does anything especially evil but because his abuses and trespasses against others are so easily done. He never bats an eyelash and doesn’t appear to feel any real remorse, even when he injures Miranda so badly that she almost dies. The story of MIRANDA AND CALIBAN is a tragedy, and one of the hardest hitting realities of the story is that often times evil people are not punished, and good people are labelled evil for their differences.
Gorgeous and utterly heart wrenching, MIRANDA AND CALIBAN is a must-read for fans of fantasy and classic literature alike.