Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey: ★ (and that is generous)

Hello all, and welcome to my scathing review of my least favorite book of 2019, BY FAR. This will probably be a rant review because I just finished this book yesterday and I am still super mad about it, so if you are a fan of this book or of Jacqueline Carey, I recommend that you do not keep reading. Because this book has definitely caused Carey to shoot to the top-almost, number one is reserved for Lev Grossman-of my dead-to-me, never-read-again list of authors, and I do not have anything good to say about her or this book. Consider yourselves warned!

Also, because this book is a re-telling of The Tempest, I’m sure most, if not all, of you already know the basic gist and ending of the story. But that statement cannot be absolute so please know that this review will definitely contain spoilers. I don’t think it’s possible to talk about all the problems with this disgusting book without spoiling anything.

I went into this knowing the basic premise of The Tempest, which I read in intermediate school but barely remember. I knew that Prospero is the wizard on the island, MIranda is his daughter, and Caliban I think was the villain of the original story, but I can’t really remember clearly. This book takes place from the POV of Miranda and Caliban as they grow up together, become best friends, and eventually “fall in love”.

Now, why did I put fall in love in quotes?? Because Miranda is the worst. Okay, not the worst really, but I don’t care for her that much. Caliban essentially falls head over heels in love with Miranda and stays in an abusive environment for years and years because he loves her so much and wants to protect her from her father. And Miranda? Essentially tells him she loves him, gets into an awkward position and spends the rest of the book (which isn’t really that much but still) regretting it HARD. Gross. But not the grossest. Compared to what I’m going to talk about next, this was just a mild irritation on my part.

The enormous problem with this trash fire of a book is that Propero is an abusive monster. He spends LITERALLY the entire book physically and emotionally abusing Miranda and Caliban mercilessly. Our very first introduction to Prospero is him showing Miranda a honeycomb that Caliban has brought them as a gift. It contains some of his hair stuck in the honey, and when he asks Miranda why the gift was important and she tries to touch the honey because she’s SIX and likes sweet things, he uses an amulet he has that contains her own hair to hurt her, to keep her from touching it.

It was a mild sting to the finger she was reaching out towards the honey, but it is still a wildly abusive action that never really stops. The entire book Miranda lives in fear of Prospero using the amulet on her to hurt her, and so she does whatever he tells her to. From what I can gather, the amulet essentially causes full body muscle cramping in whoever’s hair it contains. This of course causes INCREASED BLOOD PRESSURE because of the muscles clamping down on the blood vessels, which is important.

At one point, Miranda breaks a hard rule in their household, upsetting Prospero. So, because little girls are the harbringers of evil, obviously, Prospero uses the amulet on her and doesn’t relent, causing Miranda to have a hemorrhagic stroke that leaves her unconscious and feverish for several days. He literally tortures her to the point where she nearly dies. And then, like all abusive dirtbags who go to far and hurt the person they “love”, he feels soooo terrible and regrets it soooo much and sits by her bedside the entire time she’s unconscious because he feels soooo bad for doing it. He never actually says “I’m so sorry I’ll never do it again”, but it’s there in his actions. After Miranda wakes up and re-learns how to walk and talk and function like a person again-thanks to Caliban, by the way-Prospero gives Miranda more privileges and is not as hard on her. So basically he punched her and then cried about it and gave her flowers and gifts until she forgave him. It is a disgusting relationship, and that is how it is for the entire book. And after he does that to her, he knows that he can’t physically abuse her anymore or she might actually die this time, can’t have that, so instead he threatens to torture Caliban anytime she disobeys him. So he’s trapped her, because even if I feel like she was kind of shitty to Caliban in the end, she cares about him, and loves him for all he’s done for her, and now she has to suffer through emotional abuse to save Caliban from physical abuse.

This alone is not an issue. Reading about abusive relationships is heartbreaking, but there are numerous books out there where we are rooting for the victim to fight back and hoping for them to finally escape the abuse and their abuser. Here’s the problem: Prospero wins. He gets eeeeverything he wants in the end. Everything that could possibly go right for him does, and Miranda and Caliban are left to suffer for it and will continue suffering for the rest of their lives. I know that this is a re-telling of The Tempest, but in my opinion this book should have ended differently. I do NOT care that The Tempest ends with Miranda and Prospero leaving the island with the prince. Carey had the power to choose to change it, to make Prospero pay for all of his abuse and how disgusting and despicable he was for the entire story. She CHOSE to give him everything he wanted. She chose to give him his happy ending, and I don’t think I’ll ever forgive her for it.

I know that real life is not perfect, and victims of abuse often times do not get their happy ending. People die every day because their abusers go too far and kill them. But I also am reading a work of fiction, where if I’m reading about an abusive relationship I want to see them resist, and fight tooth and nail to escape and live their lives free from the oppressiveness of their abusers “love”. Especially when you’re an author and you have the power to give your characters that happy ending. So I don’t give a single fuck that Carey was writing a re-telling and it wouldn’t be true to Shakespeare not to make the ending the same as his. Heck, she could have punished Prospero and still had him leave with Miranda and the prince, leaving Caliban behind. She could have punished Prospero, and she chose not to.

I didn’t even get into the blatant misogyny present on every single page of this book, but that was another big issue to me. It was absolutely revolting. When Miranda is fourteen, she gets her period for the first time. Prospero tells her that this means she can get married and have a baby now-because that’s what you say to a fourteen year old-and gives her supplies to manage the bleeding. But he tells her that after she has soaked the rudimentary pads all the way through with blood, TO GIVE THEM TO HIM IN A JAR. Massive ew right there. When Miranda is having some chafing because the strap he gave her to hold the pads in place got a little blood on it and she only has the one, Prospero tells her that she should be managing herself better and that it’s her fault. WHAT. And also while she was having her period each month, she wasn’t allowed into his laboratory because even just her looking at it would ruin his spells because she was dirty. So there’s the whole purity myth crap coming into this already dumpster of a book.

Prospero eventually lets Miranda help him out in his laboratory, but refuses to tell her anything about anything because he claims that her knowing anything about it will ruin his magic spell. He says that her ignorance is essential. Yet another example of his abusive and manipulative nature, demonstrating how he has to be in total and utter control of Miranda at all times.

There’s also a particularly disgusting conversation he has with Miranda almost at the end of the book. He talks about how before they came to the island Miranda’s mother died in childbirth, which is why she has never been in her life. But Prospero is a misogynist, and thinks that all women are dishonest and cannot be trusted. He says that his wife was so beautiful that he was constantly worried that she was being unfaithful, and so throughout her pregnancy he was always wondering if the child was even his. He is so paranoid and delusional that after her death he uses his magic to create a homunculus of his wife to bring her back from the dead all so that he can ask her and find out once and for all if he really does have to care for and raise this baby or if he can just toss it, which is what I have to assume he would have done, but alas! His wife was faithful to him the whole time, and Miranda was his daughter, he was just a paranoid asshole.

Anytime Miranda does anything that Prospero doesn’t like, he blames it on the fact that she is a woman and laments that she cannot be blamed for her weakness or her poor character, because she is just a woman and women are the root of all the problems in the world.

I’m going to stop there because I am just getting more and more angry at this book the more I talk about it. Big takeaway from this for me is that Jacqueline Carey is dead to me. I highly discourage anyone from reading this book because it is repugnant and an enormous waste of time. Put the book down and go read something that is not gross, trust me.

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