Okay, I’m a little early, at least as of this writing, but I’m excited because on February 14th, Miranda and Caliban will at last be released. And I say “at last” because it feels like it’s been a long time coming. Tor Books acquired the manuscript back in the fall of 2015, but there weren’t any publication slots open in the following year, so it’s been a wait. This is my retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with the relationship between the titular characters re-envisioned as a friendship between two lonely, isolated young people blossoming into a doomed romance with the onset of adolescence.
The Tempest is an interesting play. At a glance, it’s light and whimsical, but there’s a lot going on underneath the surface. The magus Prospero is incredibly controlling. He’s bent on a 12-year mission of vengeance. He keeps his young daughter Miranda in a state of deliberate ignorance. He keeps the spirit Ariel and the allegedly monstrous Caliban in a state of virtual servitude, threatening the former with imprisonment and punishing the latter with physical torment.
The entire action of the play takes place in a single day. I was interested in exploring what went on in the twelve years leading up to that day, while this small handful of characters was stranded on an unnamed island.
So I did.
If you’re wondering if it’s necessary to have read The Tempest to enjoy the book, the answer is no. I feel confident that it’s written at a level of accessibility so that it plays out as a compelling psychological drama and a poignant tragedy whether or not you’re familiar with the play; but I will admit, familiarity will enhance the experience. It is, ahem, according to a starred review in Publishers Weekly, a “brilliant deconstruction.”
All the magic in Miranda and Caliban is real, in the sense that it’s rooted in the actual practices of Renaissance magic; albeit distilled into a simplified form. I did a lot of research both fascinating and mind-numbing (alchemy and astrology make for some dense reading), and had to pick and choose among those elements that would serve the narrative. But the cosmology reflects a worldview that was understood at the time, and the startling images of the decans of the Zodiac that Miranda renders at her father’s behest are faithful to those described in the Hermetic texts of the day.