Here's an extract from Jacqueline Carey's forthcoming Miranda and Caliban, courtesy of the author! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
A lovely girl grows up in isolation where her father, a powerful magus, has spirited them to in order to keep them safe. We all know the tale of Prospero’s quest for revenge, but what of Miranda? Or Caliban, the so-called savage Prospero chained to his will? In this incredible retelling of the fantastical tale, Jacqueline Carey shows readers the other side of the coin—the dutiful and tenderhearted Miranda, who loves her father but is terribly lonely. And Caliban, the strange and feral boy Prospero has bewitched to serve him. The two find solace and companionship in each other as Prospero weaves his magic and dreams of revenge. Always under Prospero’s jealous eye, Miranda and Caliban battle the dark, unknowable forces that bind them to the island even as the pangs of adolescence create a new awareness of each other and their doomed relationship. Miranda and Caliban is bestselling fantasy author Jacqueline Carey’s gorgeous retelling of The Tempest. With hypnotic prose and a wild imagination, Carey explores the themes of twisted love and unchecked power that lie at the heart of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, while serving up a fresh take on the play’s iconic characters. It is a dazzling novel.
It is a good many days before Papa is prepared to summon the wild boy. He chides me for impatience when I can bear it no longer and ask him when he means to do so.
“Are you a magus to chart the heavens?” he asks me. There is a cutting edge to his voice that warns me I have overstepped my bounds, and something inside me shrinks at the sound of it. “Can you tell me when the stars will be favorable for this endeavor?” I shake my head no and Papa waves one hand in dismissal. “Then importune me no more.”
I swallow my impatience and hold my tongue.
Of course there is a great deal more to Papa’s art than the simple notion of like drawing like on which it is founded. I know this although I understand but the merest portion of it.
I know that God in His heaven is the highest of highs, and there are nine orders of angels that sing His praises. Between earth and heaven are the celestial spheres, and the planets whose emanations influence all that happens here on earth.
There are seven planets, which are called the Seven Governors, and they are the sun and the moon, of course, and Venus and Mercury and Mars and Saturn and Jupiter; and each of them have secret names, too. Those are the names Papa chants every morning at sunrise to draw down their influence.
I know that the planets follow a wandering path within their spheres and the fixed stars move with the turning of their sphere, and that some conjunctions are good and some are bad. Also there are things in nature which attract the planets as like draws to like, and that the good Lord God has placed everything in nature for man’s disposal.
And that is what I know.
Oh, and there are stories written in the gathering of the stars. When Papa is in a rare good humor, he tells them to me.
I think waiting would be easier if Papa would only tell me how long until the conjunction of the planets will be favorable for summoning the wild boy, but mayhap it is a more difficult tally to reckon than how many eggs a hen has laid in a week. Although that is not always easy either. Unless they are broody, hens do not always stay on their nests.
Alas, when Papa tells me at last that he means to summon the wild boy on the morrow, he tells me that one of the hens must be sacrificed in the attempt; a white hen to attract the moon’s influence.
There is only one pure white hen and that is my Bianca.
I cannot contain my tears, but Papa is gentle at first. “You’ve kept your tally well, child, but ‘tis time a new brood were hatched and ‘twere best done while summer’s warmth lingers,” he says kindly. “Think on it. In a month’s time, you’ll have chicks to console you.”
That may be, but a chick is not the same as my sweet Bianca. “Would not one of the others serve?” I plead. “Bianca is yet a better layer than Nunzia.” Papa’s expression changes. I look down to avoid his gaze. “Forgive me, Papa. It is only that she is my favorite.”
“I cannot change the laws that govern the planets and their correspondences, Miranda,” he says. “And I should hope that your devotion to your father casts a longer shadow than your fondness for a mere hen.”
Fresh tears prick my eyes at the thought that Papa should think such a thing. “Of course!”
Papa nods. “Very well then.”
I spend hours in the kitchen garden and make much of Bianca that afternoon, holding her in my lap and petting her soft white feathers. She is content to nestle against me in the hot sun. Claudio struts nearby, pecks at the dirt, and looks askance at us.
I wish that Papa’s spell called for a rooster, but that is a piece of foolishness. Were it not for Claudio, there would no chicks in the offing. Such is the way of the world.
In the small hours of the night, a storm breaks over the island. Gales of wind howl through the palace; outside its walls, jagged spears of lightning pierce the heavens as the rains lash down. The distant sea must be wave-tossed and raging, a thought that fills me with unspeakable terror.
I cower beneath my bed-linens and think about the wild boy, wondering where he takes shelter from the storm.
I wonder if he is as frightened as I am.
Outside the palace wall in the front courtyard, the spirit trapped in the pine tree begins to wail, awakened by the storm. It is a terrible sound, keening and filled with fury and anguish. Papa should like to free the spirit, for he believes it is far more powerful than any of the simple elementals, but thus far he has been unable to find the key to the curse that binds it, and I am secretly grateful for it. I huddle on my pallet, pull the linens over my head, and wait for the storm to pass.
In time it does. The wind ceases to roar and the dinning rains lessen to a patter. The spirit in the pine falls silent, and I sleep.
I awaken to Papa giving me a gentle shake in the grey darkness before the dawn. “Miranda,” he says. “It is time.”
The air smells of wet stone and dust. I suppose dust is no longer dust when it is wet, but it has the same smell, which is different from the smell of soil or mud. Papa is clad in white robes trimmed with pale blue and silver embroidery. I cannot see the color in the dim light, but the silver thread glints and I know the other is pale blue. There are pouches strung from his belt and the hilt of a dagger protrudes from it. He carries his wooden staff as well as a little silver bowl that hangs from a chain. The latter sways as he walks, smoke trickling from holes that pierce the lid so that I know the bowl contains embers.
In the garden outside the kitchen, the patchy grass is wet beneath my bare feet. When Papa bids me retrieve Bianca, I weep silently, but I do not disobey. Bianca clucks in sleepy protest, but she suffers me to wrap her in the folds of my makeshift gown and bind her wings at her sides.
Holding her fast, I follow Papa through the palace gate and into the front courtyard where the great pine stands.
Another time, it would gladden my heart to be allowed to attend Papa in the practice of his art, but I cannot be glad today. Not with Bianca cradled trusting in my arms and the memory of the storm’s fury and the pine spirit’s cries ringing in my ears. At least the spirit remains quiet as Papa turns to face the eastern sky behind the palace and chants the music of the spheres.
Papa’s deep voice makes the air tremble, and it trembles twice over as the planets in their distant spheres pour down their emanations in response and the rising sun turns the sky to gold. It is impossible to remain unmoved at the beauty of it; but when it is over he turns to me.
“Now you must give me the hen and tend to the thurible,” he says to me, tucking his staff in the crook of his arm and putting out one hand.
I pass Bianca carefully to Papa. He tucks her against his side and gives me the hanging bowl’s chain to hold. Thurible. So that is its name. I clutch the chain tightly and look away as Bianca begins to struggle. At least her end is a swift one. Out of the corner of one eye, I see Papa drop to one knee and the silver flash of his dagger as he beheads her. He keeps her body pinned to the flagstones while it twitches in its final throes.
My breath catches in my throat and one small sob escapes me. I fight to swallow the others.
Still kneeling, Papa lifts the lid of the thurible. Reaching into the various pouches hanging from his belt, he retrieves handfuls of aromatic herbs and casts them onto the coals. Fragrant smoke arises. Replacing the lid, he rises and takes the thurible from me, swinging it gracefully on its chain. With his other hand, he holds his staff aloft. Sunlight sparks from the crystal atop it.
“May God bless you, O Moon, you who are the blessed lady, fortunate, cold and moist, equitable and lovely,” Papa intones. “You are the chief and the key of all the other planets, swift in your motion, having light that shines, lady of happiness and joy, of good words, good reputation, and fortunate realms.”
I wait quietly as he continues the invocation, my hands clasped before me. I am grateful that Papa has not dismissed me. Overhead the sky lightens to blue, the pale blue of the embroidery hemming his robe. The day will be clear after the night’s storm. Strange to see, the moon is visible in the morning sky, a ghostly white orb.
It is not quite full. I imagine that the Lady Moon turns her face away out of modesty, yet listens attentively to Papa’s prayer.
I try to keep my gaze trained upon her. I pretend to myself that this is because it is the polite thing to do, but also it is because I do not want to look down. When I blink, at the bottom edge of my gaze I see whiteness below me; white feathers stirring in the light breeze. There will be red blood splattering the rain-washed paving stones, too.
“Camar, Luna, Mehe, Zamahyl, Cerim, Celez!” Papa calls to the moon. “By all thy names I invoke thee that you hear my petition!”
He kneels once more, swinging the thurible around himself in a circle, then rises and repeats the invocation.
My feet grow sore from standing on the flagstones. I shift my weight from one foot to another.
I do not believe that it required so great a working of Papa’s art to summon Oriana the first time, but then she is a mere beast, no matter how wilful. A man is a reflection of God himself, and that is another matter.
I think the wild boy is a man, or at least a boy. I cannot be wholly sure, for I have never seen him clearly. When he spies upon me from the garden wall outside my bedchamber, he is clever about lurking in the dappled shadows. Still, I feel almost certain that he means me no harm. I cannot say that is always true of Oriana, who butts me with her bony head and the hard nubbins of her horns when she is in a foul mood.
The sun climbs overhead and the morning grows hot. I feel prickly with sweat and hollow with hunger.
Papa finishes a third recitation of his invocation, stands, and sets aside the thurible. Now he holds forth a new amulet strung around his neck on a chain. It is in the form of a silver cage wrought in a sphere, and there are strands of coarse black hair wrapped around the silver wires.
“By the strength of mine art and the very hairs of thine head, I summon thee!” Papa says in a commanding voice, thumping the metal-shod heel of his staff on the flagstones. “Come forth!”
I had not reckoned on waiting so long; but of course, that is foolish, too. The wild boy might be near or far. He is free to roam the whole of the isle, and it is almost half a league from the palace to the seashore alone.
Papa stands tall and motionless, as though an eternity might pass without his noticing, his gaze fixed on the east. His hair, which is long and iron grey, spills over his shoulders. The faint breeze stirs his hair and his beard, which is also iron grey marked with two streaks that yet remain black.
I am thirsty, too.
Our shadows grow smaller as the sun climbs. The spirit trapped in the great pine lets out a wail, unexpected and plaintive. I jump at the sound of it, but Papa only glances at the tree. “Be at peace, gentle spirit,” he murmurs. “It is my hope that this endeavor will one day bear fruit that may aid thee.”
I am not sure what he means by it, but the spirit falls silent.
And still we wait, until it seems to me that I have never done aught else save stand in this courtyard beneath the hot sun, footsore and hungry and parched. I grow so terribly weary that even a glimpse of the still body of my poor sweet Bianca no longer moves me to tears. It is merely another object with no more or less value than any other object. Only a strong desire to make Papa proud keeps me from begging to be excused. I fear that were I to do so, it would be a year or more before he would trust me to attend him in the practice of his art.
At last, there is motion in the distance; a hunched figure approaches on the horizon.