My latest book obsession is the Prospero’s Daughter series by L. Jagi Lamplighter.
I read the first one, Prospero Lost for my Women of Fantasy book club.
The premise, pulled from a Publisher’s Weekly review on Amazon, is this:
Four centuries after the events of The Tempest, Prospero’s daughter Miranda runs Prospero Inc., a company with immense influence in the supernatural world. When she discovers a mysterious warning from her father, who has gone missing, Miranda sets forth accompanied by Mab, an Aerie Spirit manifested as a hard-boiled PI, to warn her far-flung, enigmatic siblings that the mysterious Shadowed Ones plan to steal their staffs of power. Every encounter brings new questions, new problems and a greater sense of what’s at stake.
Also noteworthy in the premise: the Prospero family is immortal.
…mild spoilers ahead, beware!
I was intrigued by the first one, but somewhat disappointed with it. All the mysteries were set up and there was all kinds of background. The background was interesting. It really was. Lamplighter brilliantly weaves Shakespeare, fantasy, mythology into one coherent, connected, somewhat complicated story. But there weren’t any answers in the book itself. I’m one of those people, who, when reading a series, feels that the reader should get something to hold on to from book to book. While the book was spectacularly set up, it gave no answers.
What really saved it was the characters. The heroine, Miranda, isn’t actually very likable. She sees nothing wrong with enslaving an entire species (a supernatural species, but a species none-the-less) and is very cold to just about everyone except her brother Theophrastus (or Theo, for short). She has a soft spot for her brother Mephistopheles (Mephisto, for short) and for Mab, the company detective, who is one of the spirits employed by her family to run their company. But Mephisto is mad, although very endearing, and Theo is cranky in his old age (he’s shunned immortality). Miranda’s sister, Logistilla, comes off as an absolutely horrendous human being, at least to me. Mab was a bit cranky himself, but mostly about his enslavement. Understandable.
But the way the characters interact, and why they are the way they are, really drew me into the story. Lamplighter’s writing and descriptions were my favorite type - rich but not dense. I’ve noticed that some fantasy writers can crush their own stories under the weight of their own words. Lamplighter doesn’t do that here.
I disliked, greatly, Miranda’s constant praying to her Lady Eurynome - who was a Unicorn and a goddess and…read the book, it’ll make more sense. But she guided Miranda in every instance of trouble. Miranda is supposed to be smart and capable, but her constant “praying for guidance” kind of undermined that. It made me feel like maybe Lamplighter had no way to get her characters where she wanted them to be without relying on this divine intervention, which aggravated me. Can’t a woman just be smart and/or intuitive without having to depend on divine intervention? This was really the only aspect of the story I didn’t enjoy.
But I’m a sucker for family drama, ancient magic, and dark secrets. I was fascinated by the fact that Erasmus (another younger brother - after five hundred years, there are nine Prospero children, and Miranda is the oldest) despises Miranda, and has for centuries, but she has no idea why. So naturally, I picked up the second one as soon as I was able.
The adventures in the first book continue immediately in Prospero in Hell. It was a better book. More action, less set up, and we got to meet the rest of Miranda’s family. I like the cast of characters. Theo is less cranky and infinitely more sexy in this book. He’s pretty high on the list of fictional characters I’d totally sleep with, especially when he returns to his youthful self.
There were some really great secondary surprises in here. I figured Gregor wasn’t dead, but I didn’t figure that he wasn’t dead the way it turned out it wasn’t dead. I don’t want to give too much away, but there you have it. The surprise for me wasn’t that Gregor wasn’t dead, it was why he wasn’t dead. Although more questions were raised in this book, and we still don’t meet the “Dread Magician Prospero,” we got a lot of answers, which was really helpful as a reader. It’s frustrating to never have your questions answered.
Miranda was much more sympathetic in this book, and she’s becoming a better person, although why remains unclear. Erasmus is completely awful to her. But it’s quite obvious that in spite of the fact he has some gripe with her (that’s yet to be revealed except that he says she took something from him), he loves her because she’s his sister if nothing else. He blames himself when she’s brutally attacked by a demon. He also restores her hair to its natural dark color, which he’d previously turned silver with his staff.
All the Prospero children have magical staffs that have specific powers. You can read more about the family here and more about the staffs here. The staff page has some spoilers, so be warned. I don’t think the spoilers there are that huge, but yeah, fair warning. The family/staff stuff is pretty complicated, so I don’t want to get too much into it myself.
While I had some gripes with both books, my overall impression of them was positive. I felt that these two books could have worked as one book. They seem like different parts of the same book, because of the way the first book doesn’t give any answers and the second book gives you a lot of them. But overall, both these books pulled me in and I blew through them - a really enjoyable experience.
The third book, Prospero Regained, is set to come out September 13th of this year. Who’s excited? I am.