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.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

Naamah’s Kiss (Naamah Trilogy #1) by Jacqueline Carey

Naamah’s Kiss is a new 3 part series by Jacqueline Carey that once again takes place in the world she first created with Kushiel’s Dart.  Moirin’s story moves us forward a few generations and begins in Alba.

Moirin Mac Fainche is the love child of a woman of the Maghuin Dhonn tribe of Alba and a D’Angeline priest of Naamah.  A heritage that gives her some very interesting abilities and a journey of destiny that she embarks on shortly after the story begins.

As the story begins we learn about Moirin’s early years.  I loved this part of the story, in fact I quite often do like these aspects of any book where the protagonist relates their early tales.  She lives a very remote existence.  Her mother looks after her and they basically live out in the forest.  Moirin has very little knowledge of her own ancestry and it’s only when she becomes attached to a young man that she actually ventures further abroad and becomes curious.  To cut a long story short Moirin’s people, the Maghuin Dhonn tribe were once very powerful magicians.  Worshippers of the Brown Bear their gifts enabled them, amongst other things, to see the future.  Unfortunately, their gifts were largely taken from them when they broke their oaths and they now live a much quieter life, unable to forget their past transgressions and being thought of by others as little more than witches.

At a young age, all the tribe undertake a rite of passage type ritual.  Moirin’s ritual, without giving away too much, shows to her that she will embark on a journey in search of her destiny and this is where the story truly begins.

So, Moirin arrives in Terra D’Ange in search of her father.  Of course, having lived a rather reclusive life she’s something of an anomaly to the D’Angeline people.  She looks a lot like them courtesy of the genes she received from her father but she is nothing at all like them in character.  Moirin is a very honest character, sometimes refreshingly so and sometimes enough so to make you almost cringe on her behalf.  She has no hidden agendas.  She doesn’t particularly seek money or favour and because of her naivety she does become something of a pawn by two of the most powerful people at court.  It’s not all bad of course, she becomes a favourite of the Queen and is taught many things (including the art of love).

Her real journey, however really commences as she sets off on a journey to Ch’in and so at that point I’ll stop talking about the plot.

My likes and dislikes.

I liked Moirin.  She shows a lot of development as the story progresses which makes good reading and put bluntly she’s just a really good person who cares for others.  She manages to make a number of friends during her time at Terra D’Ange and actually becomes the student of a Ch’in Master and in fact this is how she eventually finds herself bound for the distant shores of Ch’in.

The writing is just typical Carey.  Lovely, evocative, sensual, descriptive without being a burden.  Easily persuasive.  I love her writing and just find it easy to be transported straight into the pages of her stories.

I thought it was a stroke of genius for Carey to jump forward a few generations. I loved Phedre and Joscelin’s story and all the surrounding characters, I also liked Imriel’s tale and I confess that at first I was a little bit disappointed to be jumping so far forward but it was a bit of a master stroke.  We get snippets of stories that are told by people in this book as they relate their own history and it’s great to have these reminders but it was good to step away from those characters and start afresh.  I found myself really liking Moirin and also Bao.  Their relationship did remind me a little of Phedre and Joscelin in that they had a somewhat tetchy start.

It was really good returning to Terra D’Ange and seeing what Moirin would make of the people and their ways.  In fact she seemed to shine a different torch on their lofty high handedness bringing them down to earth a little.  They’re so obsessed with good looks and appearances that it was just refreshing to get a different pair of eyes looking in.

There was more magic in this book.  Moirin has her own abilities and these seem to increase as the story progresses – I wouldn’t mind being able to pull the twilight around me myself to be honest!  There is also a dragon – but that’s all I’m going to say in that regard.  In fact I was a little surprised at how much magic there was in this story as it was definitely more obvious than the previous books.

In terms of criticisms.  Nothing major really.  I did think by the end that there was a feeling of Moirin’s destiny being set in stone – which I was a little surprised by.  What I liked about that is the way the earlier themes of the book played into the plot in ways that I hadn’t expected and I appreciated that it made me rethink things once I’d finished.  I did think that in terms of plot this is a little bit skimpy.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing but if you were going to give a brief synopsis let’s just say it would be short. The story picks up more once Moirin sets off for Ch’in but this isn’t a short book so it does have something of a slow feel to it.  The fact that I enjoy the writing so much meant that I wasn’t too concerned with the slow feel though.  For me, I can’t help feeling like Carey is almost a victim of her own success with Phedre and Joscelin – but, more than that Melisande.  She is one of the best characters from any series I’ve read – she’s so awfully nasty that she’s just good.  You read the books with this dreadful anticipation that she is somehow, somewhere at some point going to throw a huge ass spanner into the works – and it just makes the anticipation so good.  She’s a difficult act to follow, as are Phedre and Joscelin.

Overall I enjoyed this.  I read it as a readalong which I always enjoy when reading such a large and detailed book – it just helps you to tease out more about the characters and all sorts of subtle nuances about the story.

If you enjoy Carey I think you’ll enjoy this, it feels like a set up book in some ways, which is to be expected given the change in time and the fact that we have a new set of characters, and in fact if you’re new to Carey and feel overwhelmed by all the books in the series that you have to catch up with – well, this could definitely be read as a new start without the benefit of reading the others – and it’s a very sound start indeed.

I will definitely be continuing with Moirin’s tale – and this will be another readalong – so if you’re keen to jump in just watch this space for more details.

 

Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey, readalong week No.6

naakissToday is the sixth week of our readalong of Naamah’s Kiss.  Feel free to join in (the schedule is below) or to jump in with the comments.  This week the questions are being hosted by Allie at Tethyan Books.   Please be aware that spoilers may be lurking below for this and future books in the series so please be careful.
Dec. 5th Week 1 – Chapters 1-12, Hosted Lynn’s Book Blog
Dec. 12th Week 2 – Chapters 13-26, Hosted by Dab of Darkness
Dec. 19th Week 3 – Chapters 27-36, Hosted by Books Without Any Pictures
Dec. 26th Week 4 – Chapters 37-48, Hosted by Tethyan Books
Jan. 2nd Week 5 – Chapters 49-60, Hosted by Dab of Darkness
Jan. 9th Week 6 – Chapters 61-74, Hosted by Tethyan Books
Jan 16th Week 7 – Chapters 75-End, Hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog
1) We’ve finally met Snow Tiger!  What do you make of her and her relationship with Moirin?  Does anything stand out in particular?
I like the idea of Snow Tiger having a dragon within!  She’s quite a impressive character in some ways – a warrior, and also to be able to continue given everything that she’s having to deal with.  I found her to be a little haughty at first but I guess that is just natural reservation not to mention her upbringing and standing.  The thing that maybe irritates me slightly with the relationship between the two is the way that Snow Tiger expects Moirin to entertain her and tell her stories – I can’t help wondering if she doesn’t have something to contribute herself!  But overall I think she comes across as quite naive and hopefully this adventure will be good for her in more ways than one.
2) The dragon is a surprising new addition to the cast.  What do you think he’ll do when he is free?  Will he really help in the civil war?
Well, funnily enough, my Chinese sign is the Dragon so I really like him.  I don’t know whether to trust him or not but I’m going to say that I do trust him.  I’m not quite sure why he would help with the war other than to show his own displeasure over what happened to him but thinking on that a little more I think that’s a good enough reason.  I look forward to seeing what he does when he’s free (I have a vision of the genie from Aladdin when he’s released from the lamp and pings around everywhere).  He’s a dragon after all – not a lapdog and I don’t think you can tame a dragon.
3) What do you think of the Path of Dharma, as described by Master Lo Feng?  What path would you prefer to follow?
I don’t know – to be honest, I am what I am.  I’m not sure I could change even if I wanted to – which I don’t particularly.   Sometimes I think it would be nice to be a much calmer person, reasonable, controlled – but it’s in my nature to be a bit more impetuous.
4) Moirin does not seem to mind Bao’s jealousy.  What do you think of their possible future as a couple?
I think they have a great chance as a future couple.  They very much put me in mind of Phedre and Joscelin so whilst I think they will have some obstacles to traverse I think it’s possible.
5) Do you think they acted wisely against Lord Jiang’s men at the temple?  Can you see any other decision they should have taken?
Well, I think their hands were tied really – they were ambushed and this is a war.  They’d be very lucky if there was no bloodshed during a war.  The only thing I did think was that it was a shame there couldn’t have been a little bit more parlay before the slings and arrows began but Lord Jiang’s men did make the first aggressive step.

And here is the current list of participators:

Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey, readalong week No.4

naakissToday is the fourth week of our readalong of Naamah’s Kiss.  Feel free to join in (the schedule is below) or to jump in with the comments.  This week the questions are being hosted by Allie at Tethyan Books.  Please be aware that spoilers may be lurking below for this and future books in the series so please be careful.
Dec. 5th Week 1 – Chapters 1-12, Hosted by Lynn
Dec. 12th Week 2 – Chapters 13-26, Hosted by Susan
Dec. 19th Week 3 – Chapters 27-36, Hosted by Grace
Dec. 26th Week 4 – Chapters 37-48, Hosted by Allie
Jan. 2nd Week 5 – Chapters 49-60, Hosted by Susan
Jan. 9th Week 6 – Chapters 61-74, Hosted by Lisa
Jan 16th Week 7 – Chapters 75-End, Hosted by Lynn

1) The Circle of Shalomon still moves forward, despite the spirits’ tricks and the drain on Moirin.  Do you think there is any deeper intent behind the gift Moirin receives, and the kindness of the spirits to her?  Do you have any thoughts on how the gift might be involved with her destiny?

I don’t really know what to make of the Circle or the gift that Moirin received.  I think the Circle are dabbling in things that they know very little about, I think they are putting themselves and Moirin in a difficult position – and possibly a life threatening one – and it occurs to me that maybe the spirits are kind to Moirin because they are interested in her for some reason of their own.  They seem to be a little bit fascinated by her which gives me a bad feeling.

2) Moirin’s gift puts her in a difficult position, where wanting to help people could eventually kill her. Do you think you would be able to refuse the healing and/or the summoning if you were in Moirin’s place?

It’s a difficult question isn’t it.  Do you keep helping others even though you know you’re affecting yourself so badly.  I think Moirin does need to take a more balanced attitude – the fact is, if she kills herself then she will no longer be able to help anyone will she?

3) Phanuel returns!  Do you have any new thoughts about him on his second visit?  Later, when he is ill, do you think he would have agreed for Moirin to take such a risk (including her bargain to Raphael) to heal him

Phanuel seems such a calming influence – in fact I think that Moirin clearly takes after him in that respect.  I actually don’t think he would approve of Moirin taking such a risk to heal him and even more so if he found out about her bargain with Raphael – although he won’t find out about that from Moirin now that she’s swore not to talk of it.

4) Were you surprised when Jehanne is finally the one to rescue Moirin from being bled dry?  Do you trust her motivations?  On the other side, what do you think about how Raphael and Thierry handled her being rescued from them?

I was surprised but I liked that Jehanne came to the rescue and these chapters revealed a different side to her and definitely made her a lot easier to like.  Like I said above Moirin seems to be a calming influence – although, that being said, she’s not succeeding in keeping Raphael calm is she!  As to the way Raphael and Thierry handled it – Raphael acted like a spoilt little boy, sulking and petulant.  Boo hoo for him – he didn’t like it when his two little play toys decided to enjoy each other’s company  – bully for him, he certainly didn’t mind when he had both of them dancing to his tune.  Thierry, well, he maybe didn’t handle things as badly as Raphael but he also showed himself in a bit of an immature light with his comments about Moirin.  At least he had the good grace to apologise and look after Moirin during The Longest Night.

5) Do you think Moirin is a good Queen’s Companion?  What do you think of her influence on Jehanne, and has your perspective of Jehanne and the complicated love polygon changed?

I don’t really see Moirin in the role of Queen’s Companion.  It feels more like a distraction, a temporary interlude, more than anything else.  I can see that she’s had a good influence on the Queen and her relationship with the King.

6) We see another Longest Night!  Did anything notable stick out to you this time?  What did you think of the court festivities with respect to the Night Court?  

I find that one of the things that I really enjoy about the Longest Night is the attention to detail about the costumes and seeing how everyone will be attired.

And here is the current list of participators:

Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey : Readalong week No.3

naakissToday is the third week of our readalong of Naamah’s Kiss.  Feel free to join in (the schedule is below) or to jump in with the comments.  This week the questions are being hosted by Grace at Books Without Any Pictures.  Please be aware that spoilers may be lurking below for this and future books in the series so please be careful.
1. What are your impressions of Queen Jehanne?
I wouldn’t say that I like her.  Which isn’t necessarily that I dislike her – I don’t know her well enough at the moment.  But, I certainly wouldn’t trust her.  I get the impression that everything she does is self serving – the incident with the viper – being annoyed because she felt Moirin had stolen her thunder.  And then there’s the whole step-mother vibe – let’s see!
2. Moirin has found herself in the middle of a sticky love triangle. How do you think it will play out?
I think that Moirin is going to have to step away from both of them to be honest.  They’re just using her – it feels almost like she’s just a plaything to distract or tantalise them both or maybe bring a little spice into their relationship.  I think it could end badly for Moirin because she’s obviously getting sucked in and I don’t trust either of these two.
3. Now that we finally get to meet Moirin’s father, what do you think of him?
He feels like a very calming influence.  Very reasonable, nice – he seems like a good guy to be honest.  He wasn’t judgemental of Moirin and he had a good natured laugh at her too.
4. The scene with the summoning of Valac seems to be a shift in tone from the rest of the series. Is the Circle in over its head? What do you think is happening here?
This has a bad feel doesn’t it.  Sharp white teeth, slit eyes – it makes me think of something that is just waiting to be released by trickery.  I think the Circle thinks its much more clever than it really is and I think they’re dabbling with things they know very little about.  It definitely feels like something dark is going to come of this.
5. What do you think of the descriptions so far of the Ch’in?
I guess they’re as I expected.  The master who is all patient and comes out with lots of wise statements.  Then we have Bao, scowling and prickly.  Moirin and Bao put me a little in mind of Phedre and Joscelin when they first met – each disapproving of the other – I wonder.
Dec. 5th Week 1 – Chapters 1-12, Hosted by Lynn
Dec. 12th Week 2 – Chapters 13-26, Hosted by Susan
Dec. 19th Week 3 – Chapters 27-36, Hosted by Grace
Dec. 26th Week 4 – Chapters 37-48, Hosted by Allie
Jan. 2nd Week 5 – Chapters 49-60, Hosted by Susan
Jan. 9th Week 6 – Chapters 61-74, Hosted by Lisa
Jan 16th Week 7 – Chapters 75-End, Hosted by Lynn

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

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