ARC review: Miranda and Caliban

25670396Title: Miranda and Caliban
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary: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. 

I am a huge fan of retellings/re-imaginings of classic stories, be it fairy tales or Shakespeare. I was naturally really excited to read this prequel/re-imagining to Shakespeare's The Tempest. Full disclosure, I didn't love the original but I thought it had a really cool premise and I was excited to see how Carey put a spin on it.

I liked how this book subverted the roles/morality of characters from the original; Prospero is a sinister patriarch, Ariel is a malicious spirit, Caliban is a wild yet innocent boy growing up under Prospero's tyrranical watch, Miranda is an intelligent young woman who learns that perhaps Papa doesn't know best.

This book is at its core a coming-of-age story of two children from very different backgrounds growing up in the same harsh environment. I liked how the writing style for the character's POV chapters evolved along with the maturity of the characters themselves. There were a lot of familiar elements in this book that I'd seen in books set in the Victorian era; emphasis on beauty and morality being intertwined, using phrenology and other strange pseudo-sciences to classify and draw lines between men/women/different people, rigid moral codes and sexual repression.

I generally did enjoy this book, but it wasn't as lyrical or engaging as I was expecting. Prospero's motivation and near-madness could have been fleshed out more; he was definitely mysterious and sinister but I wanted to get into his head more, or at least see more moral ambiguity. Caliban's development was largely centered around his discovery of his own sexuality and feelings for Miranda, and I wanted him to grow and mature outside of that context. Miranda herself was pretty dull, and I didn't really care about her until the very end. I also expected more of the book to tie into The Tempest, but those events only came into play during the last few chapters.

This was an interesting retelling, but I think it could have done a better job of playing with my expectations or adding a new spin to the original. I would definitely recommend it for people who love The Tempest, but not for people who just like retellings in general.

A free eARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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