Miranda and Caliban – Jacqueline Carey

“I awake to the sound of Papa chanting in the outer courtyard.”

Shakespeare’s Tempest more or less starts with the titular storm wrecking the King of Naples and his retinue on the island ruled by the wizard, Prospero. But what of the years before, between the arrival of Prospero and his daughter, Miranda, and the events told in the play? Jacqueline Carey sets out a plausible take on those years, explaining, perhaps, why Miranda is so obedient to her father’s whims, why Caliban’s hatred of his ‘master’ runs so deep, and why the sprite, Ariel, is so pressing about his release from servitude.

With perfect timing, the RSC had broadcast their new version of The Tempest in cinemas not long after I received this ARC. It’s not one of my favourites from The Bard, I must confess – but perhaps that’s why so many feel driven to expand on the story. It seems that of all Shakespeare’s plays, The Tempest is one that inspires a great deal of other works. I recently read the most excellent Coral Bones, a story in the Monstrous Little Voices anthology, which deals with the after-events, as does a previous read, Tad Williams’ Caliban’s Hour. This, however, was the first time I’d seen an attempt at a prequel.

The obvious ‘weakness’, then, is that we know exactly how things are going to end (at least, if you know the play at all!). Carey’s strength as a story teller, however, means that the lead up to the events we already know is full of character development and relationship building. She doesn’t change the play, but she does manage to cast a slightly different light on some of the preconceptions about why things played out as they did.

In particular, she manages to take a story in which I liked almost none of the characters – the sole exception, perhaps, being Ariel, who doesn’t get a particularly good deal here, alas – and give at least the titular two far more rounded, full-formed personalities, with chapters alternating between their points of view. Miranda stops being a complete drip; Caliban is not just a two-dimensional villain. Nothing can be done for Propero, of course – he’s still a dick 😉

As much as I enjoyed this book, that known ending does feel slightly unsatisfying, to me at least, after several hundred pages of build up. But then, that is the perfect time to go and grab Monstrous Little Voices! Still, feeling the need for a ‘next chapter’ did slightly lower my rating here. That said, still a lovely read, and you don’t even need to know a thing about The Tempest to enjoy it.

NetGalley eARC: 336 pages / 57 chapters
First published: February 2017
Series: none
Read from 11th-10th February 2017

My rating: 7/10

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