I adored this book. I’m a sucker for a good back story, and Miranda and Caliban rang that bell but good. With her typical skill at building magical worlds, Jacqueline Carey crafts Prospero’s island, a place abandoned by people yet filled with spirits and mystery. She brings Miranda to life, a sweet and innocent girl who has no idea that her father is not all he seems. Caliban, a feral child who learns to speak but not to comply, shows a side of himself and of Prospero that throws an entirely new light on The Tempest.
I loved seeing Miranda through her growing up and how she changed throughout the book. At the opening, she was barely six and her thoughts reflected her youth. She had pet chickens that had names and she was devastated when her father made her kill one to eat because it stopped laying. She was delighted by her birthday present, which was a sewing kit. It is interesting to see her grow and change as she takes on the mantle of teacher when Prospero gives the teaching of Caliban into her care. She takes her role seriously but she still adds many elements of play, because she and Caliban are both still children.
Caliban himself is a rich and interesting figure. He hates Prospero, not because he is a warped person as depicted in Shakespeare’s play, but because he sees Prospero clearly. He knows Prospero is not a kind or good man, he hates how he treats Miranda, and fears for his friend’s safety. Caliban is supposed to be a wild and savage person, yet is the kindest and most compassionate one of the book, the one who sees the most clearly and the most honestly.
As they grow up, Miranda and Caliban are their only friends, literally the only people they could turn to on the island since Prospero is not a person to whom anyone would learn to trust. Through heartbreak and betrayal, we see these characters play out a new version of events that put a whole new light on The Tempest, one which I find remarkably sad and realistic and human. I can’t really say how much I loved this book.
This novel was full of gorgeous imagery and writing, which is only to be expected from Carey. Little Miranda explaining to still-mostly-wild Caliban that there are qualities other than speech or clothing that make us civilized was one of my favorite scenes. Later, when Miranda got her first period, I loved her thought about how gods generally are not kind to women who eat fruit. I also loved the comparison of sunlight to goodness throughout the book. That might not be a terribly unique interpretation, but it made for some lovely scenes and lines. “You in the sunlight” will always make me feel bittersweet and sad and hopeful from now on.
Format: e-galley (though I loved it so much I preordered a hard copy for myself)
Publisher: Tor Books