Miranda in Milan by Katherine Duckett

Publisher – Tor

Price - £2.22 Kindle eBook

Published – Out Now

After the tempest, after the reunion, after her father drowned his books. Miranda was meant to enter a brave new world. Naples awaited her, and Ferdinand, and a throne. Instead she finds herself in Milan, in her father’s castle, surrounded by hostile servants who treat her like a ghost. Whispers cling to her like spiderwebs, whispers that carry her dead mother’s name. And although he promised to give away his power, Milan is once again contorting around Prospero’s dark arts. With only Dorothea, her sole companion and confidant to aid her, Miranda must cut through the mystery and find the truth about her father, her mother, and herself.

Fantasy, science fiction and Shakespeare go hand in hand. Be it the witches of Macbeth, the ghost in Hamlet or the fae in Midsummer’s Night Dream while more recently we have retellings such as Forbidden Planet or the anthology Monstrous Little Voices (which also has a stunning look at Miranda). The plays are reassessed and reviewed to match our own time and in Katherine Duckett’s novella we have some questions raised such as exactly why was Prospero banished, what happened to Miranda’s mother and was she really in love?

This novel follows the events of the Tempest where the ex-ruler of the city and sorcerer Prospero and his daughter Miranda are brought back to Italy via the help of Ferdinand a prince who Miranda fell for (and the first human she has seen for a long time) and Prospero’s usurping brother Antonio gives up the throne.  But Miranda is worried. Once everyone sees her face they shudder, and she is asked to stay covered up. Her father sees his return as not penance but time to self-congratulate himself and Miranda doesn’t know where or how she fits in the world. The secret of her mother’s death is something no one wants to discuss. Her one new ally; as Ferdinand is now back to ruling his own kingdom, is Dorothea a strong-willed servant happy to talk to Miranda as an equal and familiar with magic and the ability to see the past. The two uncover Prospero’s secrets and Miranda and Dorothea find their blossoming relationship is in danger as it threatens Prospero’s plans and someone else wants to settle an old family score.

This novella I think will rely on you to know a little about The Tempest, but it raises some interesting thoughts on Prospero who we never entirely find out as to why he was usurped in the original play. Duckett gets to play with this and here we have him as a darker more manipulative man who seems not to bear his daughter much love when a potential political alliance with Ferdinand is looming. I liked Miranda here actually being shown as a fuller character in her own right. Placing a romantic relationship with Dorothea works well and it poses a dilemma for Miranda as to should she choose her prince or the heart?  There is also the mystery of what happened to Miranda’s mother and that allows for palace intrigue and some magical flashbacks. Its also a relief to see Miranda given her own agency and choices which often in Shakespeare is not the woman’s prerogative.

Overall, I really felt this was charming intelligent mystery-romance with a lot of magic.  I really like Duckett’s writing style it got a beautiful flow to it and with masked balls, Italian countryside and castles the story really is beautifully set. I’ll be keeping an eye out for future stories. If you enjoy touch of magical Shakespeare re-telling have a look at this.