Saturday, October 2, 2010

Prospero Lost by L Jagi Lamplighter

Prospero Lost was an impulse pick-up for me at the library when it came out in 2009. I love being the very first person to read a new release, and this one has stayed fairly obscure.

I picked it up again when I received Prospero in Hell, the sequel, from the library. It was rather confusing since it had been awhile since I read the first, but it was doable. Nonetheless, I decided to reread the first and review it because I just love this series.

More than four hundred years after the events of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the sorcerer Prospero, his daughter Miranda, and his other children have attained everlasting life. Miranda is the head of her family’s business, Prospero Inc., which secretly has used its magic for good around the world. One day, Miranda receives a warning from her father: "Beware of the Three Shadowed Ones."

When Miranda goes to her father for an explanation, he is nowhere to be found.

Miranda sets out to find her father and reunite with her estranged siblings, each of which holds a staff of power and secrets about Miranda’s sometimes-foggy past. Her journey through the past, present and future will take her to Venice, Chicago, the Caribbean, Washington, D.C., and the North Pole. To aid her, Miranda brings along Mab, an aerie being who acts like a hard-boiled detective, and Mephistopheles, her mentally-unbalanced brother. Together, they must ward off the Shadowed Ones and other ancient demons who want Prospero’s power for their own.

I think my favorite part of the Prospero's Daughter trilogy (so far anyway) is that it weaves history and legend in with magic and the modern world. Prospero and Miranda, at least, have been around for about 500 years and in the modern world they run a company which controls magical forces so humanity's technology can exist. Lamplighter seamlessly works these characters into the last half-millennium of human history. Miranda was almost burned as a witch. One of her brothers was a Pope. The Prosperos were involved in Milanese politics.

The way Lamplighter writes makes this a fairly easy read, I think. The descriptions are vivid but I feel as if I'm looking through a soft focus. We also find out more about Miranda and her family slowly as the book goes on. Little hints and pieces of her past are spread throughout Prospero Lost. It's one of those books that I just enjoy reading from start to finish.

One critique that I saw made on another review was that there was an anti-Catholic sentiment. I found that amusing, considering I, as a non-religious person, found it almost a little too Christian for me. Miranda and her family, with the exception of two, are all protestants. As previously mentioned, one of her brothers was the pope, and although I don't know much about papal history, I got the impression he was one of the better ones. There is a very Greco-Roman description of hell, but I found the cosmology to be mostly Christian. "The Almighty" is mentioned, along with his angels. There exist other gods, but they are weaker. There's a half-page where Mab, the Northeast wind, talks about the origins and nature of Jesus which I found interesting.

I find that people who read fantasy, however, by the nature of the books need to be rather open about god/s so I imagine this won't even register for most people who would read this book anyway.

My only other critique (tiny one) of the book is it seems to be very much a "quest" book. There is a definite goal, and it's not a broad sweeping exploration where you have no idea what will happen. Miranda wants to save her family before 12th Night. S'it. A simple plot, but I must say I don't find I have an issue with it. Perhaps if the world travel, history, religion, and magic weren't so intriguing, it might be problematic. As it is, I only really notice if I sit here and contemplate the book.

Prospero Lost is probably one of my favorite books. It's one of those that makes you want to curl up by a fire with some hot chocolate and just read on a chilly day. I guess it's a comfort book for me. Simple story, but intricate exploration of a world that "exists" within our own. I have the next one in hand and am already enjoying it.

Bottom Line
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5
Buy or Try? Buy
More? 1 / 3 in projected trilogy. All are written, 2 are published

Plot: 4 / 5 (a little weak, see above for explanation)
Setting: 5 / 5  (love love love)
Characters: 4 / 5 (soft focus, but well-written)
Pace: Slow (over the course of only a few days)
Descriptiveness: Prose
Fantasy factor: Magical Realism link


maischeph said...

I've been eying Prospero in Hell...I should prolly read the first one first, heh. I like the Bottom Line you add to your reviews, and your reviews themselves are very well-written.

Escapist said...

Thank you! I really enjoy the Prospero's Daughter series. I am working on a book now that was recommended due to my interest in Prospero we'll see if it's as good!

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