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Miranda and Caliban
by Jacqueline Carey
Tor, $25.99, 348 pp
Published: February 2017

Ms. Carey has presented us with her version of events previously chronicled in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”.  It is a most lyrical and beautiful rendition.

Prospero and his infant daughter, Miranda, were marooned on a deserted island after his faithless brother usurped his title of Duke of Milan.  The two were provisioned secretly by a faithful follower but Prospero had to use his magics to enslave the local spirits to provide services for him and Miranda.  The island had been a prison for a wicked witch who died before they landed on the island.  But she left behind two things:  her deformed, monstrous son, Caliban, and the rebellious spirit, Ariel, whom she imprisoned in a tree. 

Prospero captured the feral boy and he and Miranda proceeded to civilize Caliban.  Caliban and Miranda became the closest of friends as children.  As Miranda grew into a young woman, her father started to enlist her talents into a great magical working, the end result of which Miranda was ignorant.  With Caliban’s recollections of his mother, Prospero was able to free the spirit Ariel from the tree in exchange for Ariel’s servitude in completing Prospero’s great magical working.  Ariel, chafing at his slavery, played heartlessly with both Caliban and Miranda, tantalizing them with knowledge beyond their ken.  In the way of young people, Caliban and Miranda fell in love but when they are discovered by Prospero, they are forbidden to touch or speak to each other forever.

Miranda’s curiosity, egged on by Ariel, causes her to betray her beloved father to discover to what ends he uses her.  When she and Caliban learn the truth of Prospero’s magical plan, both start scheming, independently, on ways to escape.  Unfortunately, Miranda comes to believe there is no escape for them both and the best she can do is save Caliban from a dire fate.  Caliban can see no future in which there is no Miranda so he will try anything to save her from her father’s machinations and maybe, just maybe, keep her for himself.

The chapters weave back and forth between Miranda and Caliban, each having a distinct voice.  It is a beautiful story as told by Ms Carey; much more interesting and revealing than what the Bard initially provided.  ~~ Catherine Book

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