Miranda and Caliban: A beautiful melancholy tale

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Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey fantasy book reviewsMiranda and Caliban by Jacqueline CareyMiranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

Miranda and Caliban is a twist on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, ringing one major change on the play: what if Miranda and Caliban were in love?

Our tale begins years before the events of the play; we first meet Miranda as a child, assisting her father Prospero in the ceremonial magic that will bind the “wild boy,” Caliban, and the spirit Ariel to his will. From there, Jacqueline Carey alternates between Miranda’s point of view and Caliban’s, following them as they grow up together. At first, Miranda helps Caliban learn to speak and read; later, when she is stricken by an illness, Caliban helps her. And then when adolescence strikes, the two begin to have forbidden feelings for each other.

Looming over all this is Prospero, who rules the island like his own tiny kingdom. He has enslaved Caliban with his magic, and he has plans for Miranda that don’t involve her falling in love with a boy he thinks is beneath her. When he orchestrates the shipwreck of his enemies on the island, everything will change, and quickly.

Miranda and Caliban is a beautifully written, melancholy novel, telling the story of a young love that is sweet and pure, but fragile. (There’s a touch of the Imriel/Sidonie dynamic here, I think — Caliban, like Imriel, has internalized some self-loathing and sexual shame, but sees Miranda as a bright light, like the sun.) Carey is able to write in both an ornate style that evokes the Renaissance and in a straightforward modern style; if you like the former, she has returned to it here (though this novel is much shorter than the KUSHIEL books).

Carey could write a sequel to Miranda and Caliban, if she so chose — there’s room for one — but if she doesn’t, the ending is powerful in its own right. This is a thought-provoking take on the classic play, and I recommend it.

Published February 14, 2017. A lovely girl grows up in isolation where her father, a powerful magus, has spirited them to in order to keep them safe. We all know the tale of Prospero’s quest for revenge, but what of Miranda? Or Caliban, the so-called savage Prospero chained to his will? In this incredible retelling of the fantastical tale, Jacqueline Carey shows readers the other side of the coin―the dutiful and tenderhearted Miranda, who loves her father but is terribly lonely. And Caliban, the strange and feral boy Prospero has bewitched to serve him. The two find solace and companionship in each other as Prospero weaves his magic and dreams of revenge. Always under Prospero’s jealous eye, Miranda and Caliban battle the dark, unknowable forces that bind them to the island even as the pangs of adolescence create a new awareness of each other and their doomed relationship. Miranda and Caliban is bestselling fantasy author Jacqueline Carey’s gorgeous retelling of The Tempest. With hypnotic prose and a wild imagination, Carey explores the themes of twisted love and unchecked power that lie at the heart of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, while serving up a fresh take on the play’s iconic characters.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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3 comments

  1. I’ve always been on the fence about Carey, but your review of this book had decided me to go read it. I’ve ALWAYS wondered if the attempted rape in the play was really more in Daddy Prospero’s head than in real life* and I’m glad to see an accomplished writer take a run at that question.

    (*yes, I’ve read/seen the play and I know Shakespeare thinks it happened. But “in-world”…?)

    • Yep, kind of the “MY daughter couldn’t possibly like a guy like THIS, so it has to have been rape!” That’s also one of the big jumping-off points of The Red Tent, IIRC, and of course it happens in real life sometimes too.

  2. Of the recent “twists on Shakespeare” themed novels I’ve seen lately, I like the sound of this one the most. I’ve never read any of Carey’s work, but I’ll definitely keep an eye out for this! Thanks, Kelly!

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