Fiction, NetGalley, Retellings

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey A Retelling of Shakespeare's Tragic Tale

Today I’m reviewing Miranda and Caliban – a retelling of The Tempest by Shakespeare, which, I must admit, I have not read. That has had me worried about writing this review, but I guess it IS a retelling, so it’s okay if you read it as a standalone. I hate to say it, but as much as I’ve read of Shakespeare (and that’s basically just the compulsory reading we had to do at school), I wasn’t fond of it, and it’s mostly because I dislike reading plays. It’s just not a structure that’s fun to read. Don’t you feel that way? But I would still love to see this at a theatre. Maybe one day?

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

★★★✮☆      3.5 stars

Miranda is a young girl who scarcely remembers living anywhere else but on a deserted island with her father – a strange man who claims to be Christian, and yet keeps household demons, enslaves spirits and sacrifices the occasional goat.

So, you know. Just the occasional dark magic.

Which brings me to the next bit. Apparently, there’s someone else on the island. He has been living there for quite a while. They call him the wild boy, and he does not talk. He offers them a gift, and to his own undoing – because through it, he is enslaved by Prospero, Miranda’s father.

The next bit deals a lot with questions of freedom. To me, this part of the book felt like it was about Stockholm syndrome – should we be thankful to our gracious captors? Is it alright to bind a human being to your will through power, even if you treat them well?

Even though Prospero sees Caliban as a specimen, as a dirty lowly slave, sub-human at best, Miranda is yet a child and possesses a soft, loving heart. More than that, she is lonely! For she is a girl, growing up alone on an isolated island – it’s a fact her father seems to be too carried away to understand. So it’s no surprise that the two children form a bond, a friendship, which later blossoms into love.

But nobody in this tale has any will of their own, because Prospero is a grand puppet master, holding the strings to everybody’s fate. He will have his way, which will inevitably be tragic for the two young ones.

Things I liked about this book:

★ Prospero is a very good villain. He’s not all bad, he has so many human qualities about him. You can understand where he’s coming from and why he is the way he is. You wonder that maybe deep down there someone he even cares for Miranda. He just can’t help seeing the world the way he does because of how he’s been betrayed.

★ The tragedy in this tale is portrayed very well. Especially the ending – the ending is quite strong. I knew it was never going to end well, but knowing that and still provoking so many feelings? I applaud you, Jaqueline Carey.

★ The prose was good. And, as I’ve read in other reviews already, it seems it was trying to follow the style of Shakespeare himself – that would explain why I felt so utterly transported into the world the characters lived in, especially the time frame.

★ I liked the little world and the way it’s built – spirits, sylphs, gnomes. Stars and planets, celestial beings. Everything was so magical!

Things I disliked about the book:

✮ I know this was a retelling, so the author must have been a little bit limited in the time frames. But how old is Miranda? Can a child of 6 really teach another to talk? Can such a young kid even think the way she does? That really got me. She felt at least 13, good god. Especially contrasting that with Caliban, who at that point was about double her age, but acted and learned as a child younger than her. It just didn’t feel right.

✮ A lot of people have also mentioned this, but I just hated the way Caliban talked. Creepity creep, poppity pop. I know you are making him sound a little bit.. odd, cause he only learned to talk at age 12. But really? If I learned to talk so late and am basing my thoughts on the simplest of words, would I really use creepity creep? Where would I even learn that if no one else in the book says that? Just so unnatural. Apart from being extremely cringeworthy. I don’t think I cared much about words like that before this, but I know I’m going to cringe every time I hear them now.

✮ The book is simply too TMI! I understand most people think it’s YA? Not sure though, because alright – menstruation is okay for YA. But jerking off scenes? Should.. we really..? I mean, ugh. It was too much for me. A lot of that didn’t give anything to the book (in my opinion). But it might just be me, cause I dislike things like this in a book. We can catch on to things without being told. And we’ll elaborate as much as we want to. But being forced into being exposed to it, meh, I just don’t like that.

So… It was an okay book. There are definitely high points, and the story is told well. But these negative points were just too much for me. I have also heard similar TMI facts about other books by this author, so I don’t think I will be reading, say, Kushiel’s Dart.

But! I think there is a high chance you could still enjoy this. If you are not sensitive to graphic parts (there was no sex, in the author’s defense), then you are totally fine and you should enjoy the story.

Have you been hearing about this book lately? I know I have. Maybe you’re planning to read it?

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

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Lisa @TenaciousReader
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Ha … I hadn’t heard any examples for the TMI parts of this. I am actually curious about this one based on the strengths/positive aspects you listed.

Nathan (@reviewbarn)
Guest

I love Kushiel’s Dart myself yet still didn’t jump at a chance to read this one. Perhaps it is because like you, I am not all over the Bard. Plays are not meant to be read but seen, I agree.

Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight
Guest
So, I have been seeing this one a bit, but had NO idea what it was about. And I have to admit, I am not really jumping at a Tempest retelling. I haven’t read the original either, which, like you said, I think is totally fine. But I have also never been super interested in the story in general I guess? But I have to admit, you have made me a bit curious! I love that the tragic bits were done well- frankly, if I am going to be bummed out then let me be REALLY bummed out 😉 I… Read more »
Annette
Guest

I’ve not read the Tempest, and not a big Shakespeare fan either. This story hasn’t been on my radar, but I think it might do well in my library. They would always rather read a retelling than the original. Thanks!

Cait @ Paper Fury
Guest
I’ve not heard of this one! Which doesn’t surprise me since I basically only read YA. Buuut, it actually intrigues me?! I really like stories about people who struggle with language and express themselves differently, so that actually really intrigues me! I hear you though with books that make 6yo sound really old when they’re like…no. I have a 6yo nephew and then I remember that Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird was six and I just start to laugh. ahem. ANYWAY. I’m glad some parts of this one were good, even if it wasn’t overall great! And I haven’t… Read more »
Jackie B
Guest

Ugh. This book sounds like all sorts of thing I’m bored with already. That said– I only know this because of your *fabulous* review! I am always impressed with how articulate you are. I love that you noted the Stockholm Syndrome theme and now Miranda acts like a 12 year old, instead of a 6 year old.
That said– I REALLY hope you get to see Shakespeare performed live some day! I adore watching it performed. Reading it is adequate. But I think all plays are better performed than read. 🙂

Albert Nesmith
Guest

My curiosity increases upon reading your book review, guess I have to read the book itself.

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[…] is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Tempest, I have already reviewed it and blogged about it here.  And 4 3 2 1 is another loooong (880 page) story and it was a NetGalley wish granted! […]