Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

mirandaI must say from the outset that Miranda and Caliban is a story that I was very much looking forward to.  I think Jacqueline Carey is a wonderful author who can weave a beautiful tale with characters that are well developed and worlds that are rich with detail and Miranda and Caliban was another fine example of her ability.

To be honest I haven’t read The Tempest, in fact I’ve read very few of Shakespeare’s works so if you’re the same, and feel a bit daunted by this book because it’s based on one of his plays then don’t be.  Carey’s writing style is really beautiful and very easy to read and although this does contain the characters from the Tempest, plus being something of a retelling, its actually more a prequel in which we witness Miranda and Caliban as they develop a tentative friendship that develops into something more.  It’s also told in the author’s own modern style and isn’t an attempt to micic the prose of Shakespeare.

In the original play Prospero was the Duke of Milan.  He was however betrayed by his brother who took the Dukedom for himself and cast his brother and baby niece out to sea in a dilapidated boat with few provisions.  Fortunately the two of them managed to cross the seas and land on a remote island that was at the time inhabited by only one other person – Caliban.  This book starts a few years after Prospero and Miranda took up residence on the island when Miranda is a child of six.  Her only friends are the chickens and goats and to say that she is lonely is something of an understatement.  Caliban survives using his own wiles.  He runs wild on the island but, like Miranda, he’s lonely and desperate for human interaction.  So he watches Prospero and Miranda from afar, sometimes leaving little gifts that he finds on his travels.  Prospero, is a man of magic.  He spends hours in his study pouring over his books and brewing up all sorts of concoctions and one day he takes it upon himself to take Caliban under his wing, by which I mean capture and enslave him, of course with the notion of teaching and civilising him!  As you may imagine Caliban doesn’t take too kindly to having his freedom removed but he is torn between wanting his liberty and wanting to befriend Miranda.  And, as it turns out Prospero had other plans in mind when he took Caliban into his home and they weren’t all quite as benevolent as he tried to make out.

Now, although I haven’t read the tempest I did go and check out the plot after reading this – I just couldn’t resist – and it seems for the large part Carey has followed in Shakespeare’s story – what she brings to this story that is different is the overall feeling of the book and the nature of the characters that is focused on quite strongly here – well, unsurprising really as Carey excels in characterisation.

In terms of the characters.  I enjoyed Miranda’s chapters – they were informative in terms of getting a feel for the place and the daily routines and also when read against Caliban’s sections helped to portray how the two of them frequently misunderstood each other’s motivations – particularly as they both started to reach a certain age and lets just say chemistry worked its magic!  Miranda is a little bit of a conundrum – I wanted her to stand up to her father but then I also understood why she didn’t.  Caliban, you couldn’t help feeling a little bit sorry for – I mean, he was doing perfectly well, if a bit lonely, by himself and to strip him of his freedom and treat him as little more than a slave certainly seems cruel – particularly when we learn that Prospero had a method in the madness.  Caliban is torn – he desperately wants to run away but he also has formed such a strong attachment to Miranda that he can’t bear to do so – and equally, as with Miranda there are deterrents that prevent him from leaving. Then we have Prospero.  He’s quite the villain of the piece really not to mention something of an abusive tyrant!  Given the treachery that he suffered at the hands of his brother it would have been easy to think he would have something in him to like or to sympathise with but instead he becomes a cruel parody of a man, consumed with revenge and with very little left over in his emotional repertoire for anything else.  Prospero uses his magic to control both Miranda and Caliban and keep them in line – basically, he could kill them at a whim and the threat is very real.  On top of that he similarly controls a spirit called Aries who is tied to Prospero until his dreams of revenge come to fruition.  Aries is a wicked little character – he plays Caliban and Miranda off against each other and frequently puts Caliban into Prospero’s bad books.

This is a book that really lives up to it’s original name of The Tempest.  The Island itself lends itself perfectly.  Remote, isolated, sometimes violently stormy, you can practically feel the wind whipping and the sea lashing!  Then the characters, brooding and dark, tempestuous and sometimes just plain ill tempered (in Prospero’s case) and finally the overall feel of the book which starts almost as a simple tale and works itself up into a story with a sinister note of foreboding.  Even if you know the story you can’t help but be totally fascinated by the inner machinations of Prospero – just exactly what is he up to!  Do we even want to know.  You feel scared for Miranda and Caliban – you simply can’t help it.

And, underneath it all lies the bitter sweet love of these two young characters.  Thrown together as they have been it seems inevitable – but oh what an ending.  I could weep!  Ah, therein lies the beauty of Ms Carey’s work – to make you feel so emotional.  She worked her magic again.

If you like a stormy tale of love and dreams this could be the one for you.  Excellent writing and a compelling tale indeed.

 

 

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14 Responses to “Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey”

  1. sjhigbee

    Yay! I’m glad you like this one so much. So far it’s my favourite book of the year – I DID weep, though perhaps because I’m in the middle of my own retelling these characters resounded very strongly for me. Thank you for an excellent review:).

    • @lynnsbooks

      How exciting for you – I saw on your blog that you were in the middle of a retelling.
      This was great – I do love Carey though so perhaps I’m biased.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Tammy

    This was my first Carey book and it was so beautifully written. I loved the character of Caliban, especially how his speech changed over the years. I want to go back of read Kushiel’s Dart now:-)

    • @lynnsbooks

      The first three books in the Kushiel series are awesome. I don’t think Carey can ever top the reading experience of Kushiel’s Dart and the wonderful partnership of Phedre and Joscelin.
      This was great though, her writing is just so lovely.
      Lynn 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      Hey Tammy, I think my comments on your blog or either being eaten, going into spam or disappearing into a black hole – or maybe my laptop is doing something odd – I’ve noticed missing comments on lots of blogs the last week or two and wondered what was going on! I’ve just left a couple of comments on you ‘what’s on my plate’ and also WoW – can you let me know if they don’t appear please?

      • Tammy

        Wow that’s weird. I will check but I don’t remember seeing your comments on those posts. I’ll check spam too and get you out of there if I need to!

      • @lynnsbooks

        Well, rest assured – I have been visiting. I’ve noticed on a few blogs now that my comments seem to be not showing – not on all so I don’t know what the difference is or whether it was my settings.
        Lynn 😀

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    The more I read about this book, the more I’m fascinated at the prospect of the dark, compelling mood it seems to shroud the story in. It would also be my first Jacqueline Carey book so who knows? I might find another author I love… 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      She is a really beautiful writer and this is a great story. Of course, I can’t help but nudge you in the direction of Kushiel’s Dart if you really want to start a Carey series – such a good series.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I’ve been waiting for this review! Really glad to hear you enjoyed it. Since you’ve also read other books by Carey, I was curious to see what you would think. Obviously, for me this one didn’t come close to the original Kushiel trilogy (but then, who could compete with Phedre?) but I still loved it. She writes sooooo beautifully. Stories like these really make her style shine.

  5. jessicabookworm

    This sounds wonderful! I was in The Tempest at college – I played Ariel 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      Excellent – how cool – Ariel was a very cheeky and mischievous character in this. What a great role for you to play. Did it give you a love for the play?
      Lynn 😀

      • jessicabookworm

        Yes definitely – while you can read Shakespeare’s plays they really are meant to be performed and watched 🙂

      • @lynnsbooks

        Yes, I’m not overly fond of reading plays which is probably why I don’t really read Shakespeare – but a retelling is great, obviously you have the author’s own interpretation of the character but in this case it was very good.
        Lynn 😀

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