I 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.
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.