Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey – Review

There are few things that would creep me out more than being on an island where there were only three people, but the island was big enough for people to hide on. Can you imagine it? You’re on an island, settling in for the night and all of a sudden you hear someone scream or even just the rustle of leaves. Was there a person in that bush? Am I about to be attacked by an animal? If I fall and break my leg, will I starve and die like that?

Just thinking about it gives me the heebie-jeebies, but I honestly wish that was the direction that Miranda and Caliban had taken. Instead, we were taken on a strange journey of abuse and isolation that meandered before sprinting toward its end.

From the very beginning, Miranda and Caliban has this strangeness to it. There’s something wrong in the way that things are described that will intrigue the reader and pull them closer. Miranda, a six year old girl, is living with her father on an island that they had been exiled to. Her father (later revealed as Prospero) is a magician who has a charm which he can use to control her. So long as Prospero has someone’s hair, he can cause them pain if they were to anger or attempt to hurt him.

The novel begins with Miranda realizing that there is a honeycomb that had been left for them by a wild boy who also lives on the island, but most importantly, that the wild boy accidentally left his hair in the honeycomb. With this, the story begins as Prospero controls both of their lives. He seeks to ‘civilize’ the boy he now controls and eventually, with Miranda’s help, they’re able to communicate with the boy who introduces himself as Caliban.

While the prose is beautiful, there’s an opportunity missed to focus in on the abusive aspects of Prospero. He ruthlessly controls their lives and while the physical abuse is there, I felt like we didn’t get enough feedback from the characters that the abuse is visited on to really drive that point home. Instead, the burgeoning feelings between Miranda and Caliban distract. I wanted more liberties to be taken with Shakespeare’s The Tempest or hoped that the play could be used as a jumping off point for more detailed interactions between our two heroes.

Instead, we end up with a love story that’s not a love story and a tale of abuse that has no real end. The dialogue, mimicking the way that it would be spoken in Shakespeare’s play can feel clunky at times which is strange when Carrey’s prose can be so engaging.

But in the end, Miranda and Caliban is a pretty retelling of The Tempest.

It adds depth to the play, but just doesn’t go far enough with it.

Unique in its own way and worth a look.

Miranda and Caliban

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