Miranda in Milan, Katharine Duckett; Saskia Maaleveld, narrator (Audible Studios, $12.99, digital download, 4.5 hr., unabridged). March 2019.
Fantasy writers never want to accept Miranda’s happy ending with Ferdinand at the end of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. And who can blame them? Ferdinand is the only young man (or perhaps the second young man, depending on how you depict Caliban) that Miranda ever meets; can this really be a formula for a solid union? In this short and spooky work, Prospero doesn’t even give his daughter the chance to find that out: after a brief stop in Ferdinand’s home of Naples, he drags Miranda back to Milan with him. Busy reclaiming his dukedom, he basically abandons Miranda to a dreary new life in which she is mainly confined to her rooms and forced to conceal her features underneath a veil. Why does the sight of Miranda’s face frighten the Milanese so much? Why doesn’t Ferdinand get in touch? Why is no one willing to talk about Beatrice, the dead mother whom Miranda no longer remembers? And what is Prospero really up to? A witch working as a servant befriends, romances, and helps Miranda discover the often upsetting answers.
Since this is a third-person perspective story, it works that the narrator’s persona seems slightly distanced from our heroine. Maaleveld sounds just a bit drier, and somewhat more worldly, than poor naïve Miranda, but her narration expresses profound sympathy for this young woman trapped in a net of magic, politics, and ugly personal history, and her tone rings emotionally true in the fraught scenes where Miranda discovers the truth of her early history and confronts her father Prospero.
This is a lovely little work that manages to carve out its own niche in the Shakespeare-inspired subgenre, worth encountering in whatever format you choose.
This review and more like it in the July 2019 issue of Locus.
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