I’ve put off reviewing this book because I’m not entirely sure what to say, and I feel like my reaction to it is somewhat unfairly tied to my expectations for it.
I was obsessed with The Tempest as a child; I saw the play when I was 12, and proceeded to read it and re-read it, read literary and theatrical commentary on it, read about various productions and the liberties taken with it. It was my gateway to Shakespeare, and I remain able to recite chunks of it, though with time plot details and context have faded. That obsession was at it’s height 23 years ago.
Because of The Tempest’s special place in my heart, I was excited to read this. My ultimate reaction is somewhat… underwhelmed, though again, this may be because of unfair expectations. The writing in places is lovely, and it serves as an interesting character study – I was especially excited and pleased at the development afforded Caliban, who was always the character who interested me the most. To see him get some characterization was, I don’t know, almost vindicating?
But while I had been expecting more of a reimagining of the story – perhaps with an alternate ending – this is instead just a perspective shift. To be fair, there was nothing about this book that suggested it was anything but the story told from a different perspective, which is why I have to concede my expectations are not necessarily a valid point from which to judge the book, but still can’t be extricated from my own experience of the book.
Functioning as a prequel to the play, we do get to see more of their lives on their desolate island, and the characters do get fleshed out extensively (you’re mileage may vary as to whether they are likeable or not; while I feel like Miranda was in a bit of an impossible spot, some of her actions grated; I felt much more sympathy towards Caliban). Prospero, I feel, became a considerably less sympathetic character, though this may be because we are only seeing him through the eyes of Miranda and Caliban, and he is not a POV character, so we get none of his inner monologue.
The writing was enough to keep me interested, but the book is fairly thin on plot (plot is generally secondary to me, but I know not everyone feels that way). Even so, I felt the resolution was rushed, for the length of the build-up.