I've never read The Tempest, and maybe I should have before reading this book. I might have appreciated it more. Carey, as always, delivers beautiful prose, and that's the reason that I will keep reading Carey's books for as long as she keeps publishing them. Unfortunately, this one was a bit of a miss for me when it comes to the romance and the story, mostly because of the narrative's treatment of Caliban, which made me increasingly uncomfortable.
When Caliban is first captured by Prospero, he can't speak the same language as Miranda and Prospero, and it makes sense that his chapters are more simply narrated, and reflect his imperfect grasp of the language. However, despite the fact that Caliban is three years older than Miranda, his narration never becomes as mature as Miranda's, and continues to include some strange sing-song sections. He also constantly characterized as being physically monstrous because of his dark skin and bowed legs, both by Prospero, the spirit Ariel, and himself. Only Miranda sees the beauty in him, but that changes as soon as she meets the man that her father means her to marry; then she admits to herself that he's monstrous, and that he wouldn't fit into her new life.
I understand that if you're going to follow plot of the Tempest, Miranda has to end up with the prince. But it just feels uncomfortable, to me, that Miranda only falls in love with Caliban because he's her only option, and that she abandons him as soon as she has another option. It's also uncomfortably that she ends up just going along with her father's plan despite the fact that Prospero, in this telling, is incredibly abusive. At the end of the story, nothing in our main three's positions has really changed. Prospero is in charge, Miranda is doing what she's told, and Caliban is on the outside, unnecessary, abandoned, and only alive by the grace of Miranda's mercy.
Maybe the point of this book is to make us uncomfortable, and to make Caliban someone that the reader empathizes with. If that was the goal, it accomplishes it, and presents some beautiful prose along the way. However, I don't know that I would recommend it unless you're a die-hard Carey fan or absolutely love The Tempest. If either of those things are true, you might get a lot out of this book.
3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.