Feb 20, 2017

Review: Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

TitleMiranda and Caliban
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Publisher: Tor Books
Publishing Date: February 14, 2017
Pages/Format: 352, ARC
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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.

Book in One Word: SIGH

I can't say that I would know of Miranda and Caliban's existence if not for that cover. It was that cover--a thing of pure beauty that makes me want to drool all over the place--that drew me to the book in the first place. I saw the cover, immediately read the synopsis, and was very pleased that the synopsis seemed to promise a story worthy of that cover. All in all, Miranda and Caliban--a book that was literally love at first sight--became one of my most anticipated books of 2017, and when I received an ARC I was ecstatic. So it pains me to say that, as much as I love the outside of it, the inside of Miranda and Caliban didn't go as well.

This is a retelling of The Tempest--which means nothing to me. My knowledge of The Tempest is nonexistent aside from knowing that Shakespeare wrote it. I don't know if lack of said knowledge is beneficial or not; I can't judge this as a retelling of The Tempest. But I also don't know if I would've liked it better if I could have made that comparison. Because as is and with what I know, I'm wishing Miranda and Caliban wasn't a retelling of The Tempest--or was, at the least, just inspired by it--and was instead a story all its own.

The thing about Miranda and Caliban is that it absolutely reeks with potential. I kept imagining the directions the story could go as it progressed, and I was giddy at the possibility of what could happen--except that none of it did. And my problem isn't that what I wanted to happen didn't; my problem is that I'm not thrilled with what did happen. I was very surprised to start the book and be introduced to Miranda as a young child. I was expecting somebody in the young adult/early twenties range, but I figured this was a little build up to the story to come. But Miranda--and, therefore, Caliban--stayed a child for the vast majority of the novel (for more than half, I swear), and that held the story far, far back.

Miranda and Caliban begged for growth, but in order for the story to really progress, its titular characters needed to age--and not more than halfway through the novel. I was expecting an epic romance at times painfully sweet, delicately sensual, and overflowing with sexual tension, but that was missing, especially since Miranda and Caliban were most children for the entirety of the book. The few bits of sexuality were more about coming into it than anything else (I did appreciate the mentions/scenes of the two coming into their adulthood, as well as their attempt to understand what was going on, since no one ever prepared them for such things), and I. just. wanted. more. I wanted--needed--Miranda and Caliban to have a strong, awkward, beautiful love for each other and overthrow her father (who I was super duper not a fan of; push him off a cliff). What I imagined happening--my gosh, I would eat that shit up. I would love it. But instead the book was something else--reminiscent of The Tempest, I guess. (And don't even get me started on that ending.)

I so desperately hoped Miranda and Caliban would be the kind of book I look at with awe and hearts in my eyes, a book I'd hold close to my heart because it's that special and that good. And while I certainly did not dislike what I read--I did like it!--it was just so far from what I expected, and when I imagined what might happen and those dreams didn't come true, I set myself up for failure. I liked Miranda and had a softspot for Caliban, but I so very much needed more from so many aspects of this story and it not getting what it deserved was frustrating. Maybe if I was familiar with The Tempest this may have been more successful. But as someone who isn't familiar with the Shakespeare tale, I am sorely and thoroughly bummed.

Did I like it? Yes.
Did I love it? No.
Would I reread it? Maybe.
Would I purchase it? I might have to at some point just because of that cover.
Who would I recommend it to? People familiar with The Tempest and/or who like more adult stories with younger characters, hints of magic, frustration, older times, and isolated settings.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


  1. I REALLY liked Carey's Kushiel series, but the first one in that moved SO SLOW. I ended up LOVING the first book (and the rest of the series as well), but yeah, Carey has a tendency to spend a TON of time with characters when they're too young to really do much. I'd be curious to read this one just to see how it compares :)

    ~ Michelle @ FaerieFits

  2. Aw, bummer it falls short of the mark! I've loved some Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel's Dart series and The Sundering duology) but hated others (Santa Olivia), so I was hoping this one would be amazing. The Tempest is rich material to work with, and she's normally so good at character development. :(


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