Book Review: Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey + Signed Book Giveaway!
***The giveaway is now over, thanks to everyone who entered!***
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Tor (February 14, 2017)
Length: 352 pages
Few things get me more excited than a new book from Jacqueline Carey, and on the list of my must-read authors, her name definitely sits way up near the top. I also owe so much of my love for fantasy to amazing and talented woman. Her novel Kushiel’s Dart was among the handful of gateway books that first sparked my interest in the genre, and to this day I have not encountered anything else quite like it. But while Carey may have branched out into other areas like Young Adult and Urban Fantasy in recent years, I’ve continued to enjoy her work because I just love the way she writes, no matter what style or topic she decides to tackle. And with the growing trend in Shakespeare retellings these days, I suppose I wasn’t too surprised when I initially discovered that she was working on a retelling of The Tempest.
That project ultimately became Miranda and Caliban. As the book’s blurb states, many of us are already aware of how the original story goes, with Prospero and his quest for revenge against his usurping brother as well as the complicit king. But in her version of this classic tale, Carey has chosen instead to shine the light on Prospero’s gentle and kindhearted daughter Miranda, reimagining her in a coming-of-age romance with the other titular character Caliban, who was actually the monstrous antagonist of The Tempest. In this book, however, Caliban is the misunderstood feral boy who opens up to Miranda after being enslaved by her father, with the bond between them increasing in strength over the years as the two grow up together on the lonely island under Prospero’s overbearing tutelage.
Miranda and Caliban also presents a scenario to fill in what happened in the twelve years that Prospero and his daughter are stranded on the island after their exile. The book begins eight or so years before the great storm, when Miranda is just a six-year-old helping her father in a ritual to capture the wild boy they’ve seen lurking around the woods. After the boy is caught, Prospero attempts to civilize him by using harsh methods, but it is Miranda who succeeds in drawing him out of his shell by showing him kindness and compassion, convincing him to reveal that his name is Caliban. Seeing how his daughter has made such progress, Prospero decides to use the children’s friendship to his advantage, compelling Miranda to also ask Caliban about the spirit Ariel that the boy’s mother imprisoned in a tree.
Despite some of its close ties to the original play, you really don’t need to know a lot about The Tempest to enjoy this book. Case in point, I am in no way an expert on anything Shakespeare and yet I was still utterly enchanted by Miranda and Caliban. This is a love story, one that begins with the two eponymous characters meeting as children. With no knowledge or understanding into anything pertaining to the birds and the bees (Prospero may be a master sorcerer, but he was a complete failure of a sex ed teacher), awkward physical changes and confusing emotions eventually arise as both of them experience puberty and wind up falling in love.
But even if you’re not a big romance reader (and I don’t consider myself one either), there’s still plenty to appreciate about this tale. I found Carey’s portrayal of this world and its characters utterly fascinating, as well as the way she has flipped certain elements from The Tempest on its head. Caliban is of course a very sympathetic character here; his POV chapters show him gradually transforming from a wordless feral boy to a well-spoken young man, though he remains self-conscious about his physical appearance. Instead of being the protagonist you root for, Prospero is the menacing shadow that seems to hang over everything. Not that he was the nicest guy to begin with in the original play, but this story further plays up his use of magic to control everyone, including his own daughter, and exposes the hypocrisy of his faith and quest. At times Prospero’s love towards Miranda may seem genuine, but then his true colors will come out and the reader will despise him all over again. In this version, Ariel is also a villainous creature who constantly does things to thwart Miranda and Caliban’s relationship over the years, seeming to take much joy in making them both miserable. Still, it’s interesting to note that being able to arouse such powerful sentiments for even the most obnoxious of characters is one of Carey’s finest talents; you can’t help but connect with the people she writes about because she fleshes them out so well without having to resort to common tricks.
That said, Miranda and Caliban is very different from previous books I’ve read by the author. Much of it probably has to do with the constraints of this book being a Shakespeare retelling, which just goes to show what a versatile writer she is, though there’s also a part of me which feels immensely glad she wrote something like this. Carey’s last three novels were from her urban fantasy series Agent of Hel, and while I had a blast with those casual fun books, they certainly don’t exemplify just how spectacularly she can write. In that domain, they simply can’t compare to Miranda and Caliban, which perfectly showcases the gorgeous, lyrical prose that I love her for. I honestly believe that even if the story doesn’t appeal, one can still surely appreciate this book for the writing.
The Tempest fans will love this beautifully written and richly imagined retelling which approaches the story differently from an interesting and thought-provoking angle, but you also don’t need to be familiar with the original play to enjoy this book. After all, being able to appreciate ideas like the purity of love or the tumultuous emotions of growing up requires no prerequisites. Jacqueline Carey explores these themes and more in Miranda and Caliban, a poignant and heartbreaking novel that infuses a beloved Shakespearean classic with a welcome layer of depth, complexity, and feeling. Highly recommended.
Signed Miranda and Caliban Giveaway
With thanks to the publisher, The BiblioSanctum is pleased to host this giveaway of one signed copy of Miranda and Caliban. This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada. To enter, all you have to do is send an email to email@example.com with your Name and valid Mailing Address using the subject line “MIRANDA AND CALIBAN” by 11:59pm Eastern time on Thursday, February 23, 2017.
Only one entry per household, please. The winner will be randomly selected when the giveaway ends and then be notified by email. All information will only be used for the purposes of contacting the winner and sending them their prize. Once the giveaway ends all entry emails will be deleted.
So what are you waiting for? Enter to win! Good luck!