Author: L. Jagi Lamplighter
Genre: Fantasy (Contemporary)
Publication Date: August 2010
Hardcover: 352 Pages
The exciting, suspenseful story of Miranda’s search for Prospero, the fabled sorcerer of The Tempest
The search of a daughter for her father is but the beginning of this robust fantasy adventure. For five hundred years since the events of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Miranda has run Prospero, Inc., protecting an unknowing world from disasters both natural and man-made. Now her father has been taken prisoner of dark spirits in a place she could only guess. Piecing together clues about her father’s whereabouts and discovering secrets of her shrouded past, she comes to an inescapable conclusion she has dreaded since Prospero was lost.
Prospero has been imprisoned in Hell, kept there by demons who wish to extract a terrible price in exchange for his freedom. As the time of reckoning for Miranda draws near, she realizes that hundreds of years of their family’s magic may not be enough to free her once-powerful father from the curse that could destroy them…and the world.
Stand alone or series: Second book in the Prospero’s Daughter Trilogy
How did we get this book: Review Copies from the publisher
Why did we read this book: We both loved the first book in this trilogy, Prospero Lost – so much so that Prospero in Hell was on both of our most highly anticipated books of 2010 lists.
Thea: My first impression of Prospero in Hell began a few months ago, when the gorgeous cover was unveiled. I loved the cool, silvery Miranda on the cover of the first novel, and was just as enamored with this warm, sepia-toned cover for the second book. Even more delightful, however, was the discovery that Prospero‘s beautiful cover was the perfect complement to this incredible series. Miranda, her surly detective and her squabbling siblings are reunited in this second installment as they travel to Hell itself to rescue their entrapped father (and, in the process, humanity). Prospero in Hell is one of those rare middle books that is even better than its predecessor; I loved it.
Ana: (Why do I have the feeling that this entire review will be a succession of “I agree with Theas”?)
I loved Prospero Lost for all that it was a slow burner of a book: I read it and I liked it but with time, the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated it. I even grew fonder of the cover, which at first sight had repelled me; When I saw the cover of Prospero in Hell I immediately loved it. Cover aside, did the book live up to the expectations I had after loving the first one so much? YES and I agree with Thea (see?), it is an even better book than its predecessor and I too, loved it, in spite of a couple of hiccups ( which shall be addressed in due time).
On the Plot:
Thea: Picking up immediately where Prospero Lost left off, Prospero in Hell opens with dutiful Miranda, her cuckoo brother Mephisto, and her trusted detective Mab on the back of Pegasus, hurtling towards Mephisto’s secluded mansion. After learning that their father, Prospero, is trapped in Hell, Miranda works on gathering her errant, self-absorbed, and suspicious siblings together, and persuading them all to make a rescue attempt to free Prospero. Miranda’s task, however, is not without sizable obstacles the most notable of which is the lack of trust between the Prospero children. Mephistopheles is quite mad. Erasmus despises Miranda and believes her to be a liar and manipulatress. The thief Ulysses teleports away (using his handy staff) from any confrontation with his family, protecting his own self-interests. Titus is nowhere to be found. Logistilla is cruel and has some deeper secret to guard of her own. Theo, under some strange compulsion, has refused to take the water of life and has grown into an old man. Cornelius, blind, has been implicated in the death of another of the Prosperos (as have Ulysses and Logistilla) – Gregor is dead (or is he?).
All the while, the Three Shadowed Ones stalk the Prospero children, sowing distrust between the siblings in a grander scheme to destroy the family, and literally unleash Hell.
As we’ve said before, Prospero in Hell is a “middle book” – it is the second book in a planned trilogy. Usually, middle children suffer from that less-than-scintillating “in betweenness” i.e. the book maneuvers the characters we fell in love with in the first volume and sets them up for some grand battle to come in the final volume. The middle child is often neglected – a vital part of the storyline, certainly, but not nearly so exciting, dramatic or developed as its bookending siblings.
Every so often, however, a middle child comes along that defies this mold (hi, The Empire Strikes Back!). Such is Prospero in Hell.
The sheer mass of revelations in this second book – Miranda’s heritage, her father’s attitudes and true feelings for her, the role of her siblings in the fall of the Prospero family, for example – are staggering. Taking the core conflict of the missing Prospero from Prospero Lost, in Prospero in Hell the plot thickens with corruption, back-dealings with demons, and identity reveals. From a pure plotting perspective, Prospero in Hell knocked my socks off. I can safely say that I had no clue where the story was going or the reveals that would gradually come to light in this second novel, and found myself impressed with each subsequent development. But more than just pure story, L. Jagi Lamplighter has a beautiful writing style and an imaginative scope that is flat-out awesome.
One of the things I love the most about this series is the broad and wonderfully comprehensive the scope of Miranda’s world. There is a strong Judeo-Christian sensibility with familiar demons and a Dante version of Hell, but there also is a strong blend of western folklore interwoven with this model (including Aerie Ones and Elves). Although I am a bit wary of Christian themes in my books, I will say that it makes sense in the frame of these characters. Each of the Prospero children are from an earlier, very Catholic, time and would view the world in these different ways (heck, Gregor used to be a Pope). From the Prosperos’ perspective, it makes perfect sense.
I will say, however, that I do have a bit of fear for the upcoming book. So far, Ms. Lamplighter has written a beautiful story that does not preach nor feel conversionist – however, there is an undeniably strong thread of Christian-type themes and messages in the text, and I cannot help but fear that the final volume may deliver some sort of Message (note the capital “m”). I am not fond of being preached at, nor do I like Messages in my reading. That said, Ms. Lamplighter has shown beautiful restraint in her writing thus far, telling what is essentially a fantasy novel with some very Christian themes without crossing the line into preachy territory. So long as this balance is maintained, I will be a happy camper.
Ana: Yes, to all that. I cannot begin to express how impressed I am with the scope of these novels from the mythologies and stories it encompasses to each and every one of the characters. Although at times the story does seem too convoluted, every single thing has a place or meaning: sometimes sinister, sometimes sad, sometimes happy. For the geek in me, it was a feast: every time a creature from mythology appeared, every time someone talked about something like The Ark of Covenant, I became giddy with satisfaction. The fact that all of those are not simply thrown into the story as a gimmick but rather had an actual purpose is even more impressive.
The plot moves along with twists and turns (and OMG the twists!) and every single revelation left me breathless. This is why I read folks, for this need to know what happens next, for the breathless excitement of a damn good story. The Prospero series are providing me with just that and I love them for it.
Other than that, Thea covered the positives very well – and I agree with every single thing she says.
I have a few concerns which I have been thinking and considering ever since I finished reading the novel. Although they did not diminish my enjoyment or my admiration for the novel, which says a lot, I think it is worth bringing them up. This is where my part of the review gets really spoilery so step away now if you don’t want to know.
ALSO: TRIGGER WARNING (rape).
Miranda is raped. Which is a BIG deal because her virginity is part of what keeps the Prosperos immortal (she is a Handmaiden of the Unicorn and as a Handmaiden she is allowed the Water of Life which extends their mortal lives). She has been trying, for centuries to move above and become a Sybil because as a Sybil she would still be entitled to the Water of Life but also, to marry or have lovers. In this book, she loses it all after being raped by one of the Shadowed Ones.
Now, as a matter of principle I hate when a female character needs to be raped to be striped of her powers and to propel her into change. I think it is lazy writing. But I need to consider this particular case and this particular scenario: I think that the rape itself was handled well and it fit within the story. The scene was not too graphic and the writing conveyed how horrific it was; I think Miranda’s reaction to it, her brokenness, the physical and psychological repercussions (all the “if onlys”, almost broke my heart) were also handled well as were her brothers’ and friends’ reactions.
I am though, most concerned about how the lasting effects of what happened to her will be addressed; and above all, about the possible connections it might have with the Christian-type themes and messages in the text which Thea refers to above. My main concern is that the rape is being used to strip a woman of her power (which comes from a FEMALE Goddess) so that she can find… something else that fits in that theme. Note: it has not happened yet and I hope it won’t. But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t mention my reading of this part of the plot.
It is a statement of how much this book is good, that I remain extremely excited for the final instalment even if this excitement is tainted with a sprinkle of wariness.
On the Characters:
Thea: Ah, children of Prospero! How I love thee. Prospero in Hell works so damn well in part because it truly takes the time to develop its characters. In this second novel, all the Prospero children are gradually reunited (although they certainly aren’t happy about it), called from whatever self-absorbed tasks they usually spend their immortality performing to band together to save their father. We finally get to meet the other Prospero children in this book, and discover that they are all flawed, deeply real people – except in the Prospero case, they are the only family of immortal humans in the world (that we know of) and as such, family disputes cause much more prolonged drama. In particular, Erasmus’s antagonism towards Miranda is fascinating – what caused this mistrust? Why does he loathe his older sister so? Of all the siblings, the mad Mephisto (who is not really so mad, as we discover in this book), the cruel Erasmus, and the aged Theo are my clear favorites. Of course, there’s also Mab, whom I love (in part because he is modeled after Bogart’s portrayal of Chandler’s Marlowe), as well as a few other Aerie ones. There are also the Three Shadowed Ones themselves, in particular Seir, the incubus, who has deep ties of his own to the eldest Prospero child.
Which brings me to the star of the novel; Prospero in Hell is Miranda’s story, narrated by her in the first person, and it is because of Miranda that any of the Prospero children are reunited and know of their father’s plight. It is Miranda’s character that propels the trilogy, and my goodness does she go through a lot in this second book. Faced with hidden truths and blatant lies about herself and her family, Miranda’s pristine world is smashed to smithereens, her self-perception distorted and marred. These revelations change everything, and how Miranda is forced to adapt to these self-truths is a hard thing to read (at one point in the book, something terrible happens and it is heartbreaking for poor Miranda) – but, as the series progresses, Miranda continues to grow as a character and learns to rely on her own internal strength and find her own voice, separate from her father’s wishes or the protection of her Lady. Terrifying for poor Miranda, yes, but empowering at the same time.
Ana: Do you know what I think is the MOST impressive thing about these books? That the majority of the characters are self-absorbed, egotistical pricks who think themselves above and better than anyone else. And that in spite of that they are all incredibly human for all that because it makes perfect sense that they would be like this; just consider that the Prosperos are the ONLY humans that are immortals, the only humans that are as powerful as the creatures they meet and who have a task to protect the entire human race. How could that not go to their heads? Because of that I might not love or admire them as people (as fictional as they are) but I love them as characters because they are well drawn and in the midst of all of their adventures there is time for a glimpse of two of what motivates each and every one of them. Just like Thea, my favourites are Mephisto, Mab and Theo.
All of that is also true of the protagonist and narrator of the novel, Miranda. Cold, detached, superior, Miranda was almost unbearable over the course of Prospero Lost but a lot has changed ever since. Transformation, evolution, call it what you will, but she has changed according to what she has been experiencing and her arc is for lack of a better world, amazing. It cracked me up when she experienced empathy for the first time ever in Prospero in Hell and was puzzled by it.
And for everything that is holy in this world, I must know what the frak is up Erasmus’s behind and why does he hate Miranda so much? I am not exaggerating when I say that this is possibly the mystery I want to see answered the most. I imagine the answer to that will rock our worlds, Thea.
Final Thoughts, Observations & Rating:
Thea: I loved Prospero in Hell from nail-biting beginning to its dramatic (cliffhanger!) conclusion. I can only count the days between now and the release of Prospero Regained next year. Bring it on, Ms. Lamplighter!
Ana: In spite the couple of aforementioned misgivings, I truly, deeply loved Prospero in Hell. I have high hopes for Prospero Regainedand will keep my fingers crossed.
Additional Thoughts: No excerpts available online, but author L. Jagi Lamplighter has some wonderful extras on her website about the series, including a Prospero Timeline, list of influences and poetry for the series, a primer for The Family Prospero, and a breakdown of their respective staffs.
Thea: 8 – Excellent, leaning heavily towards a 9
Ana: 8 – Excellent
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