Review: Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

Genre: Fantasy, Retelling

Publisher: Tor Books on February 14, 2017

Source: Publisher

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.

 

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.

Have you read anything by Jacqueline Carey? What’s the most heartbreaking book you’ve read recently? Let me know in the comments!

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  • kariny

    I read The Tempest for my O levels a few years back and Caliban was by far the most intriguing character! I wasn’t a big fan of Miranda because she felt a little too innocent but i get that she was the way she was since she was brought up on an isolated island. I really can’t wait to read this book! Great review 🙂
    Kariny @ kariny’s boox frenzy

    • Couldn’t agree more Kariny, I love Caliban in the original Shakespeare play! Miranda isn’t much of a presence in the original in my opinion, which is why I loved reading about her here — she actually has a personality, LOL. Thanks! 🙂

      • kariny

        gosh i really do need to read this book then cause i really want more of an insight on Miranda 😛

  • Were almost review buddies, mine goes up in a couple of hours! I agree, I loved this too. I really adored Caliban but boy was it hard to read his chapters because, so much bad stuff! This was my first Carey too, and I’m curious to read Kushiel’s Dart, because I hear it’s quite different.

    • Wasn’t it so good? I’m really glad that I loved Carey’s writing style so much, because I already bought Kushiel’s Dart…LOL! I’ve heard that it’s quite a controversial book, but if nothing else I’m sure I’ll love the writing based on Miranda and Caliban.

  • I have not read anything by Carey, but I’m impressed with how she’s created this gripping atmosphere with such a well known story. Maybe I should start reading her!

    • I can’t recommend any of her other stuff since I haven’t read it, but I definitely recommend this one Verushka! Based on what she does with “The Tempest” here, she’s quite an accomplished writer.

  • I have read Carey yet stayed away from this one because retellings so rarely impress me. But reviews are stacking up here and all say green light.

    • Oh really, which book(s) did you read? What’d you think of her stuff? Retellings can definitely be hit or miss, especially ones that stick so close to the source material, but I think this is one of the best that I’ve read.

  • Tragedies and I don’t mesh well together, but this sounds like such an engrossing story. I feel like I don’t want to miss out on it. Maybe knowing that it’s a tragedy will help me not feel like I’m punishing myself by the end. It sounds absolutely wonderful though, and the characters and the setting sound gorgeous. My heart is already a little broken reading your review, but I’m still going to read the book!
    Lovely review, Danya!

    • Normally I’m not big on tragedies either, but I do feel like knowing it’s heartbreaking going in makes it more bearable. I guess I’d describe this one as heartbreaking in a bittersweet way: Carey makes you love it, even though it’s horrible, hahaha. Either way, Carey is definitely an author I want to read more from now. Thanks so much, Nick! 🙂

  • Sara Letourneau

    This is the third positive review I’ve read this morning for Miranda and Caliban, and now I’m convinced I should read it. I haven’t read Jacqueline Carey’s books before (though I do have Kushiel’s Dart on my bookshelf, still unread). But M&C sounds like it would be right up my alley.

    • I’m so happy to see that Miranda and Caliban has been getting such a positive response across the board because I think it’s a really beautiful book. So many Carey newbies around here, haha! I really want to read Kushiel’s Dart now too, and I’ve bought my own copy…that’s how much I enjoyed this one!

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    This seems to be the “Miranda and Caliban” day, indeed! Your comments have strengthened my resolve to read this author as soon as I can, and probably to start with this book that seems like a perfect study of characters. Thanks for sharing!

    • I know, right? Looks like a lot of bloggers had similar review schedules this month, haha. A character study is the perfect way to describe Miranda and Caliban, and if you’re someone who loves well written characters (as I know you are) then you’re sure to enjoy it. I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this one, Maddalena!

  • I have actually never tried her books!

    • I’m surprised by how many people have been saying that, since I thought I was one of the last holdouts!

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Ah, again. Another review that sounds good. 🙂 Maybe I’ll cave and read this sometime. I do love the thought of evil not always being punished, even if its a harsh thing to read.

    • Sometimes a darker read is exactly what you’re in the mood for, and even though I’m not usually that into tragedies I absolutely loved this one. Jacqueline Carey is an author that I’ll definitely be reading more from in the future.

  • Great Review and that cover has me interested. But I’m only hesistant because I haven’t read the Tempest. I really should considering Atwood’s new work is retelling, but alas my TBR books that I own are driving me crazy and I’m trying to get through them!

    • Oh yeah, that cover is absolutely breathtaking isn’t it? Tor’s art department has really been killing it the past couple years. I think you can read both M&C and Hag-seed without having read “The Tempest,” but they’re definitely more interesting if you’ve read the play. Good luck with your TBR, Tori!

  • Yeah, Carey’s gorgeous writing really came through in a book like this. Not that I didn’t enjoy her UF series but she was writing in a completely different style and I just missed this. You really need to check out Kushiel’s Dart! It’s one of my favorite books ever.

    • Normally I’d be all over a UF series that only has three books, but I was never that drawn into Carey’s because I’d heard that it doesn’t showcase her skill in the same was as the Kushiel’s Dart books. I’m champing at the bit to read them now!

  • I feel like I just read a review for this book! I haven’t read this book or The Tempest. I don’t think this one would be one for me because of the tragedies and the impending doom! But I love the sound of each protagonist – they should like very likable and relatable characters. I’m glad you enjoyed this one, Danya!

    Have a great week. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • There have been a truly ridiculous number of reviews for M&C this week, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d come across more than a couple! 😉 Totally fair Alyssa, Miranda and Caliban isn’t exactly uplifting and I 100% understand wanting to avoid those sorts of stories. It was a really well written book though and I’m really excited to read more by Jaqueline Carey!

      Thanks, Alyssa. 🙂

  • Bookworm Brandee

    Woot! I had to read this review because I picked up this book as well, being a Shakespeare fan. 🙂 Plus, I’ve always wanted to read Carey and figured this was a good place to start. I’m so, so happy that you think it’s a good read! I can’t wait to read it, Danya. Shakespeare writes good villains, doesn’t he? Iago is a favorite of mine but Prospero makes my list as well. Oooh, I can’t wait!

    • Shakespeare fans, unite! His villains are truly epic, and Iago’s a great one. I feel like studying Shakespeare’s plays in uni actually made me love them more, which makes it extra impressive that I enjoyed this retelling so much. Jacqueline Carey is such a talented writer, I’m quite excited to dive into her other work soon!

  • Beautiful review, Danya! You had
    me at your reference to Daughter of the Forest. I love that book. In truth I
    have Kushiel’s Universe series on my radar for a long time. Miranda and Caliban
    sounds wonderful, though I’m not sure I have enough of emotional strength for
    such a heart-wrenching story right now.

    • Thank you so much, Ksenia! I love Daughter of the Forest too, it’s one of my favourite books! The Kushiel books have been on my TBR list for ages too — maybe we should do a buddy read of the first one some time! Miranda and Caliban is definitely hard on the heart, so if you’re not up for that sort of story right now you should definitely steer clear.

  • I definitely struggled with the fact that there is no comeuppance for Prospero. it didn’t even seem fair that he got off okay and then poor Caliban was left on that island alone when all he was trying to do was free himself and Miranda from the tyranny of her father. I agree that Miranda’s perspective did wear a bit towards the end as she never struggled to free herself from her father but sort of accepted her role in his scheme. I would have liked something more for her. And then we never get to see if Caliban does get rescued from being alone. Just all of this book broke my heart and that sucked. I don’t mind not getting a happy ending but it didn’t even feel like there was a glimmer of hope. Whilst I adored the writing and how it both kept close to the writing of Shakespeare and also managed to develop these characters into full people with an actual backstory I can’t say I loved the book which was annoying It did make me want to read more of Carey’s work, though. I mean, if she can do that with a retelling what are her original books like?

    • Oh my god, I know! I was seriously raging at the end of the story when he seems to get everything he’s working for at no real cost to himself (and at great cost to literally everyone else, including his own freaking daughter). Caliban’s circumstances at the end of the book were so sad, his closing lines of narration were utterly heartbreaking. Miranda was a really great character in the sense that I completely understood why she did/didn’t do certain things, even if I found her inaction incredibly frustrating.

      Yeah, I completely agree. I think the ending is meant to be open-ended but leaning towards the tragic side; there certainly isn’t much hope in the pronouncement that Ariel makes to Caliban about Miranda’s promise, if you know what I’m saying. I get what you mean, even though I really liked this one I wouldn’t say that I loved it either. But there’s always Kushiel’s Dart! I have a copy just waiting to be read…possibly buddy-read…just saying. 😉

      • I know, I think it’s the unfairness of it all that got me. Turns out I totally want happy endings for all whenever possible. At least I know it’ll be a book I won’t forget anytime soon.

        And I am totally up for a buddy read. It may have to wait a week, though. Mostly because I am determined to clear some other books off of my shelf first, mainly The Promise of FIre and The Winter King. I can conquer some of my TBR! But yeah, we can start reading on Monday if you want? I don’t own a copy but I’ve had a copy in my basket on Amazon for about a month so I need no great push to buy.

        • Totally fair! Happy endings are my go-to right now, what with all the insanity in the world.

          Yaaaay! How would you feel about holding off on the buddy read until the first week of March? I’m kinda swamped with review books at the moment (someone stop me from requesting on NetGalley!). Let me know what you think!

          • No problem. Message me when you’re ready to start reading and I’ll get a copy on my shelf over the weekend. I know how the feeling of drowning in review copies well.

  • i’ve never heard of this book before, but your review definitely makes me want to pick it up!

    • Miranda and Caliban is a beautifully written book, definitely worth a read if you get the chance, Chelsea!

  • I’m not at all familiar with The Tempest, but this does sound like a great book. It sounds like it’d be hard to read, but in a realistic sort of way. I’m going to keep my eye on this book since I like dark and heart-wrenching. Great review!

    • It was *definitely* hard to read, and certainly quite hard on my heart. If I were a more dramatic reader then I would’ve been clutching my chest in pain at several points, haha. Thanks so much, Kristen! 🙂

  • Lisa Loves Lit

    I’ve been hearing some good stuff about this one. And I do love retellings, almost better if I haven’t read the original story, because if they’re good, then I want to go back and read the original. Great review!