Jacqueline Carey has been one of my favorite authors for almost 16 years now, since the publishing of her first novel, “Kushiel’s Dart”. Full disclosure; I am a full on fan girl who named my eldest daughter after one of Jacqueline’s characters. I always get excited when she shares on her blog her current writing project. In 2015 she announced that she had written a new book that would be a retelling of “The Tempest” but told from Miranda and Caliban’s perspective. However, due to publishing schedules it wouldn’t be coming out until early 2017. Patience is the virtue of readers waiting for books to be made manifest and put in our eager hands.
When the book finally came home, I had to grapple with the fact that I have never read or seen “The Tempest”. This book was purely bought because I have enjoyed everything written by the author. My knowledge of the play was limited to there is a wizard/sorcerer named Prospero, there is a wind spirit named Ariel, he apparently has a daughter named Miranda and there is a servant named Caliban. Should I read the play first? Should I find an online cliff notes of the play? Or should I just dive in and trust that I’ll be given the necessary information? I chose that last option.
The story begins with Miranda as a young child grappling with whether or not she has always lived on the island with her father. She has a pair of shoes, now too small for her but treasured as they are her only shoes, and dim memories of ladies caring for her which imply she hasn’t always been on the island. The only person she knows is her father, Prospero, and the only other human on the island is the wild boy, Caliban, whom she sometimes catches glimpses of in the garden. Her only friends are her chickens and the goat she cares for. All that changes when Prospero decides to use his magic to summon Caliban and bind him to servitude. Poor Caliban has been on his own for so long he has lost the power of speech and a mute Caliban is of no use to Prospero. So Prospero sets out to civilize him in order to learn the name of the God that Caliban’s mother worshiped and invoked to seal Ariel in a pine tree.
It is not Prospero that unlocks the key of civilization in Caliban, it is gentle Miranda. The book alternates between Miranda and Caliban’s perspectives and this is one of the ways which Jacqueline really shines as a writer. Miranda’s early chapters are the voice of a curious child. Caliban’s early chapters are limited by his vocabulary as he learns speech. The two grow and learn together and quickly develop a bond of friendship. It is because of this bond that Caliban tells Prospero the name he seeks to set Ariel free.
While Ariel may be free of the tree, he is still bound by servitude to Prospero and his mercurial nature delights in making trouble where he can. Planting seeds of doubt and dischord, Ariel leads Miranda to more deeply question her father and his motives. The result is that Miranda is punished to the point of needing to be retaught how to speak and care for herself and Caliban is there every step of the way, teaching her the way she had taught him and bringing the two of them closer together.
Time passes and puberty comes. Miranda’s and Caliban’s voices have changed over time as they aged. Jacqueline is no stranger to writing about love in it’s many forms and she writes very well from both of their perspectives to the changes that have occurred because of puberty and the difference in their ages, now becoming more of a factor in their relationship.
At the end of the book it becomes obvious when bits from the play begin to interweave with the narrative. Though I am happy to report no knowledge of “The Tempest” is necessary to enjoy this book. “Miranda and Caliban” is a lovely story chronicling the growing up and coming of age of the two main characters before the events of “The Tempest”. A what if, extrapolating what might have led up to the play.