About the Book
Miranda is a lonely child. For as long as she can remember, she and her father have lived in isolation in the abandoned Moorish palace. There are chickens and goats, and a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree, but the elusive wild boy who spies on her from the crumbling walls and leaves gifts on their doorstep is the isle’s only other human inhabitant. There are other memories, too: vague, dream-like memories of another time and another place. There are questions that Miranda dare not ask her stern and controlling father, who guards his secrets with zealous care: Who am I? Where did I come from? The wild boy Caliban is a lonely child, too; an orphan left to fend for himself at an early age, all language lost to him. When Caliban is summoned and bound into captivity by Miranda’s father as part of a grand experiment, he rages against his confinement; and yet he hungers for kindness and love.
This book was sent by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
I owe a lot of why I love literature to Jacqueline Carey. Her books are among the first that I read when I first started exploring all things SFF, and I fell in love with them for a lot of reasons. However, one of the reasons she has always stood out to me is because I consider her an incredibly sensual writer. Now, I don’t mean that as, you know, a sexual author (though she can be considered that). What I mean is, no one really manipulates, or overwhelms readers with the sensual nature of her writing quite like Jacqueline Carey.
Miranda and Caliban was a horse of a different color for Carey. I haven’t ever read The Tempest, and I’m not a huge Shakespeare person. I think I’ve maybe read two of his plays, and seen a few more, but that was years ago so much of it is forgotten by now. Anyway, The Tempest and me have zero acquaintance, and I was a bit nervous going into things. Would that impact my enjoyment of the book?
I decided to see how far into Miranda and Caliban I could get before my ignorance started to bug me. I got about a forth of the way into the book before I figured it was time to get the cliff notes version of The Tempest. I don’t really think that’s essential, and some people might not be bothered by having no knowledge to go off of, but it started to annoy me. There were small details that I felt like I should understand, or be at least kind of familiar with, and I just wasn’t. I don’t like feeling like that. And the short overview of the play did help quite a bit, and as I read, some things just started to make more sense to me. I started having “ah ha” moments, and I liked that. Pieces fit better. An example of this would be the spirit in the tree. I was completely baffled by this. I had no understanding of any part of this, or how to mentally visualize it or understand it. As soon as I got my handy overview of The Tempest, it stopped bugging me because I got it.
The fantastic part of this is that Shakespeare is basically everywhere online, so if you’re in my camp, it won’t be hard for you to shake a stick and hit something relevant to your understanding.
Now, the other downside of my ignorance is that I think some of Carey’s genius and creativity was probably lost on me. One of the things, other than her sensual writing, that I love about Carey is how she tends to flip my character expectations on their heads, and in the process of doing that, she usually absolutely wallops me with some extremely powerful emotions. Not really being very familiar (well, familiar in any respect) with The Tempest probably made some of those moments that make me sit up and notice Carey a bit less powerful. I’m pretty sure I understand most of where Carey got creative with her plot vs. the Shakespeare original, and while I just absolutely loved it, I’m sure a person with more of a familiarity with the play will enjoy these moments a bit more than I did.
This isn’t to say that the book wasn’t pure genius, because it was. I don’t think that it is essential to know the play beforehand. You know how there’s that fantasy series that you’ve been wanting to read, and it’s like seven books long and each book is a standalone, so you decide, what the hell, you’ll start with book three because it looks good. Now, book three is great, but once you read it you decided that, while you loved it, you’d probably appreciate all the details and creativity a bit more if you had the foundation of books one and two to go on first. Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
Miranda and Caliban was rather astounding. Very different from Carey’s other work, but just as genius. I loved the creativity of the world this is set in. As I’ve said before, Carey is a sensual author, and she really wraps all of your senses up in the book she’s written here. The world isn’t just interesting, it requires your complete attention, and the payment for that complete attention is a powerful tug on your emotions.
The world is experienced mostly through the eyes of the two characters who make up the title. The reader will sort of grow along with them, so the book starts and you learn about the world through an innocent child’s eyes, and as the child grows, so does her understanding of the things she sees and takes part in. Caliban adds an interesting, tempered innocence to things. The world is colored by their perspectives, and they both balance out to create a world that is packed full of atmosphere. It’s dark, but it’s also promising. It feels small, almost like a cage, but the feeling of the world being so much larger is always there, looming over everything.
Miranda’s innocence was fantastic, but the way Carey handled Caliban’s growth and development, and the developing connection between the two of them was what really astounded me. Caliban really changes from how he’s introduced in the novel, but somehow, despite those changes, Carey manages to still remain true to him. He never really loses his insecurities, for example. It was beautifully done.
Carey has a way with making a slow moving plot completely addictive. She takes her time, really develops the world and the characters, twists a few things here, turns a few things there. Maybe you won’t notice some of this at first, but there are plenty of ah ha moments along the way where you’ll have to just sit back and enjoy how all those details play out as things unfold in the novel.
I’ve mentioned atmosphere a little bit, and I think I need to again. Carey really makes her readers feel strongly. I felt intensely for all of the characters, and by the end of the book I started to feel things that I didn’t expect about some of the characters, and the world itself. This book felt a little dark to me, which also surprised me, but it was tinged with such hope and such powerful love. But oh, the atmosphere…. Carey really makes this book bleed atmosphere. Every page is carefully planned, and every word is carefully chosen, and it pays off in spades.
Miranda and Caliban was fantastic. It was everything I never knew I wanted to read. Carey is a genius author, and even though I’m not familiar with the play this is based on, I still consider this one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.