This was the final book of the Prospero’s Daughter trilogy by L. Jagi Lamplighter.
Prospero, the sorcerer on whose island of exile William Shakespeare set his play, The Tempest, has endured these past many centuries. His daughter Miranda runs the family business, Prospero, Inc. so smoothly that the vast majority of humanity has no idea that the Prosperos’ magic has protected Earth from numerous disasters. But Prospero himself has been kidnapped by demons from Hell, and Miranda, aided by her siblings, has followed her father into Hell to save him from a certain doom at the hands of vengeful demons. Time is running out for Miranda, and for the great magician himself. Their battle against the most terrifying forces of the Pit is a great fantasy adventure.
…beware, spoilers ahead!
These books got progressively better as the series went on. Half way through the first book, Prospero Lost, I wasn’t sure I was going to continue reading the series, but by the end of it, I had to order the next one, Prospero in Hell, right away. By the time I was done with that one, I was disappointed I had to wait six months for the final book’s release date.
These have become some of my favorite books.
This is obviously a quest story, with the ultimate goal of Miranda and her siblings being to rescue their father from Hell. What they learn about themselves and each other along the way makes the whole story really interesting. That said, the whole thing could have been really dull if the characters weren’t so much fun. It was really the characters that made this story worth reading.
Lamplighter did a great job with the Prospero family - their family dynamic, their struggle to figure out their father’s secrets, their witty back and forth, their magic and their own secrets are really what made this series compelling.
I was also happy that Lamplighter answered all the questions posed throughout the series. I hate it when any book leaves you to wonder/infer what had gone on without giving any concrete answers. At the end of Prospero Lost, I was sort of upset that no questions had been answered and I was really afraid a lot of questions would go unanswered. Besides that, there were so many characters, I thought it would be odd if nobody knew the answers to at least most of the questions raised. There are ten Prospero children (Caliban ends up being family), plus their father, plus Mab, plus Astreus, plus all the baddies they meet in Hell. Surely SOMEONE would know the answers.
I also liked the happy endings for everyone…except for poor Cornelius, whose ending was more bittersweet than sweet. I wish the Epilogue had jumped a little bit further ahead, where we’d see how everyone was doing later and if Cornelius was doing better, but it was still a satisfying ending.
There was only one thing I didn’t entirely understand - when the angel Muriel Sophia reveals who is guarding the entrance to Hell from Limbo, Miranda assumes it is Hades, but the angel tells her Hades stepped down long ago and now, the guard was the person who received forgiveness at Calvary and was now looking to make up for past misdeeds. Miranda immediately realizes who the new guard was, but I had no idea.
I thought I was missing some key piece of theology about who was forgiven at Calvary, but after checking with my friend George and my mom, who are two of the smartest, most knowledgeable people I know, I wasn’t missing anything. The other two people who were crucified with Jesus at Calvary received forgiveness from Jesus - one accepted, the other didn’t - but they weren’t exceptionally notable people. I didn’t understand why Miranda would know who it was immediately. Which of those two was it? Later, when the guard saves the Prosperos from The Queen of Air and Darkness, he tells Miranda not to let anyone know who he is, including her family. She doesn’t.
I still don’t know who the guard is. I thought it was a weird thing to not further explain, and that’s why I figured I was missing something. Why would it be a secret to the other characters if it was incredibly obvious to Miranda? And since Miranda is the narrator, shouldn’t it be incredibly obvious to the readers as well?
If anyone knows something about what went on at Calvary that I don’t, I’d love to be filled in.
The baddies in this series were really great too. I liked all the demons and minions and underlords of Hell. Another friend of mine has a complaint that in some ways, we over psycho-analyze villains and that sometimes its more fun when the villains don’t have any motivation except, mostly, that they want what they want. That was pretty great here. The servants of Hell wanted to destroy the Prospero family because the Prospero family kept them from doing whatever they felt like and forced them back into Hell. Simple and fun! Sure, they also want humans to never get to Heaven so that they can be miserable too, but that isn’t as lame as other villains, like Anakin Skywalker.
There was only one part of the book I didn’t particularly like. The part where Lilith was basically saying Hell was responsible for people being lazy, marriage being weakened, abortion, etc… It got just a little too Christian preachy for me. I know Lamplighter is a Christian, and there’s a lot of theology in the books, but none of it had been too in-your-face up until that point. Lamplighter did herself a credit when Mab said, “Demons lie,” and Miranda said Lilith’s words could be a gross exaggeration of the way things really were. Still, it came off as if things would be better if people spent more time on their knees observing and following Christian morals, particularly those handed down by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
This wasn’t enough to ruin my love of the books, it was just a little bit too…this is right/this is wrong my liking. I get that it’s a story and it’s very much a book about a family following orders from Heaven, but up until that point it wasn’t so VoiceOfThePulpit-y. It was more about the family protecting mankind against the powers of Hell (them trying to kill us/destroy us/force us into their service) than it was a vehicle for preaching moral values. I mean, they were wandering through Dante’s Hell, so it’s not like the reader is taking this to be what Hell is really like (assuming it exists and all that).
The story does kind of redeem itself when actual Hell is empty and everyone in “Hell” is actually dreaming and when they wake up and realize they love God and all that. But I admit, I skipped the part with Lilith’s speech when I quickly re-read/skimmed the book.
I liked the trek through Dante’s Hell. I’ve never read The Inferno or anything, but I’ve read summaries, so it was nice to be in depth in that without having to know too much about it, as it was all explained through the characters. The whole series was filled with references to history and literature so that was fun for me. I’m a loser that way.
But I greatly enjoyed this series overall, and Prospero Regained was a great conclusion to the series. We got all the answers and happy endings. It was kind of nice not to walk away from a series being unhappy with how it ended (the most notable series I’ve read in the last year that ended this way was the Hunger Games trilogy).
If this series is ever extended, I’ll be delighted. Given the opportunity, I’d be happy to revisit the Prospero family again.
War for the Oaks by Emma Bull was the May book for my Women of Fantasy book club. I finished it in record time.
Emma Bull’s debut novel, War for the Oaks, placed her in the top tier of urban fantasists and established a new subgenre. Unlike most of the rock & rollin’ fantasies that have ripped off Ms. Bull’s concept, War for the Oaks is well worth reading. Intelligent and skillfully written, with sharply drawn, sympathetic characters, War for the Oaks is about love and loyalty, life and death, and creativity and sacrifice.
Eddi McCandry has just left her boyfriend and their band when she finds herself running through the Minneapolis night, pursued by a sinister man and a huge, terrifying dog. The two creatures are one and the same: a phouka, a faerie being who has chosen Eddi to be a mortal pawn in the age-old war between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. Eddi isn’t interested—but she doesn’t have a choice. Now she struggles to build a new life and new band when she might not even survive till the first rehearsal.
I loved this book. Loved it. Loved it.
…mild spoilers ahead!
The only thing I thought was a little bit odd was the way Bull constantly described what everyone was wearing/what they looked like. Beyond this, everything was great.
I liked the writing style even though I didn’t understand why we kept being told what everyone was wearing. It flowed well, and the story was very engaging. I did have to look up quite a bit about British, Celtic, and Scottish folklore - well, I didn’t have to look up too much stuff but I ended up reading a lot about it anyway - and that’s what I liked most about the book. It explained enough for the reader to understand but didn’t treat the reader like an idiot by going into too much explanation.
Considering how I didn’t like the main character for April’s book (Eden in Four and Twenty Blackbirds), I was a little wary when the main character’s name was Eddi. No real reason, except they were similar names, but I was still a little wary.
But I ended up liking Eddi much better than Eden. Eddi reacted the way I felt she should have reacted when chased down by a phouka. She was wary of him and didn’t want to be in the situation she was in - which I thought was NORMAL. I hate it when a completely normal human character gets kidnapped by some supernatural entity and just go along with it without question. Her doubt (and reactions) gave the book realism that sometimes I feel are lacking in urban fantasy books. I thought it was a nice touch that Eddi wasn’t comfortable with Meg slaving away for her, because I wouldn’t be comfortable with it either. I liked the Eddi explained to Meg that she could help save Willy just because it was the right thing and Eddi was asking her to do it. I really, really, really liked Eddi.
I liked that Eddi played guitar - rock and roll - and could sing, but while she did this and made her living off being in a bar band, she wasn’t SUPER!famous and they weren’t constantly talking about how she should be SUPER!famous. I also liked how while there was a lot about music in the book, there wasn’t so much that it got in the way of the story.
I thought the resolution was a little bit weak - the Queen of Air and Darkness’s magic vs. Eddi’s band’s magic, the way mortals sometimes have magic and music amplifies it.
Carla was the best girlfriend I always wished I had. Dan was kind of irrelevant, except to the band, but was there to give Carla more depth. I didn’t quite understand why Hedge was the way he was, and I kind of wish Bull had gotten into Hedge a little deeper because he was really interesting. Willy was…skeevy in a way, but got less so as you realized he was trying to understand what humans were like.
Then, there was the phouka. I really loved him. He was so…I don’t know…great is the best word. The way he talked was totally adorable and not normal, which was good, because he wasn’t normal. He was charming and pleasantly deceptive and overall just super adorable. I loved the way he described his love of Eddi to her. I will say the way the romance aspect of the story progressed a bit predictably; the moment Willy showed up and the phouka looked at him warily I knew that Eddi was going to start with Willy and end up with the phouka. I liked the phouka though, so it wasn’t one of those unbearable march-towards-the-inevitable-hideous-end things. I was rooting for him.
A major positive was that there were people/faeries/characters of color in this book. Dan was black (though he didn’t play a MAJOR role, he was a good supporting character and uber!cute when he was with Carla). The phouka also had dark skin, and he was central to the story. I didn’t like how, in Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Eden was described as a light skinned dark person who could have passed for white or something like that (I can’t remember exactly what the description was and the book is not close by) and there was this very clear distinction of light skinned blacks being the “normal” characters and the dark skinned blacks being the weirdos. Maybe it wasn’t intentional but it came across that way. Here the characters who weren’t white played better roles. I don’t usually get into the racial stuff I sometimes see on the internet, but in these two particular books it seemed kind of obvious to me, so I’m touching on it here.
I felt there could have been a little bit more on the faerie motivations and their desire to have this particular area of land. There were, for all intents and purposes, the good faeries and the bad faeries, and they were fighting over an area of land without really explaining why, except that was “what they did.” I suppose I might have missed the reason, but assuming I didn’t, it was a bit ill-defined.
Last thing - IT WAS SO 80s! I loved it! Eddi wore vintage stuff and they played punk rock and it was just so 80s! There were phone booths and no computers and people could make a living being a bar band! <3
I highly recommend War for the Oaks. It’s engaging and fun - not too long or too dense. I can’t say enough good things about it. There’s so much to love.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest is a story that I really, really, really wanted to like. And I thought I did for awhile.
The classic Southern gothic gets an edgy modern makeover in Priest’s debut novel about a young woman’s investigation into the truth of her origins. What Eden Moore digs up in the roots of her diseased family tree takes her across the South, from the ruins of the Pine Breeze sanitarium in Tennessee to a corpse-filled swamp in Florida, and back in time to the Civil War, when the taint in her family bloodline sets in motion events building only now to a supernatural crescendo. Priest adds little new to the gothic canon, but makes neo-goth chick Eden spunky enough to deal with a variety of cliché menaces—a scheming family matriarch, a brooding Poe-esque mansion and a genealogy greatly confused with inbreeding—that would have sent the genre’s traditional wilting violets into hysterics. Eden is a heroine for the aging Buffy crowd, and her adventures will play best to postadolescent horror fans.
I’ve been looking forward to this book because of both the title and the cover art. This is another entry from my Women of Fantasy book club. The cover art is a bit spooky, which I love and begs me to read. Also, in my own weird way, I’m obsessed with nursery rhymes. They all have secret meanings. I actually bought my mom a book on secret nursery rhyme meanings, which she asked for, but which I will probably get to first.
So, I dove into this story. I found out too late that the title has little to do with the actual story. Disappointing.
…beware, mild spoilers ahead!
I enjoyed the premise. Eden sees ghosts who try to protect her from him. Who is he? As Eden gets older, she discovers more and more about her history, which is very mysterious, of course, and she discovers who he is.
I liked Priest’s writing style. I also enjoyed, deeply, the relationship between Eden and her aunt, Lulu. The idea that sometimes things change and never go back/are never the same again is something I relate to and understand completely, having gone through a life-changing family experience.
The conflict with Malachi I found enjoyable. He’s like some damn obnoxious bug that just wouldn’t.go.away. As well as the old woman, Tatey. They were amusing.
But the biggest problem I had with the story was that I didn’t like the resolution. It just didn’t seem realistic to me - at all, in any way. I don’t want to say that I expect total reality in my fantasy series, but this is urban fantasy, and I expect some sense of “this could really be happening.” Considering these people were mere mortals living in modern America, the idea of someone surviving for 150 years through a concoction of blood, marsh grass, and chanting (as well as a child being reincarnated over and over again), I just didn’t buy. There wasn’t enough explanation for me to really believe that the antagonist harnessed his magic. In Prospero Lost and Prospero in Hell, the magic makes sense. You understood how it worked, and why. Here, it’s just evil black magic that just kind of…goes on. It was revenge, it was a desire for immortality, it was…just not something I could realistically believe. The foundation of the magic just wasn’t solid enough, and the motives for the magic weren’t well justified. There were just a whole bunch of half reasons that didn’t seem to fully develop.
The second major problem I had with the book: I didn’t like Eden. I thought I did, at first, but as I reflected on the book, the more and more I just couldn’t like her. As someone who is around Eden’s age when the story takes place, I felt as though I shouldn’t be aware of exactly how stupid she was. There were a whole bunch of moments where I decided this girl was really too stupid to be living. She was smart in a lot of ways, but not smart enough to come out of the experience alive. I also felt Priest spent a lot of time having Eden talk about her own attributes instead of showing Eden’s attributes. Some of these attributes also seemed to come out of nowhere as Eden needed them - it was very Mary Sue.
(Side note: I found Cora the most interesting of the secondary characters, and would have liked to see her relationship with Eden develop, but she disappeared early on. The end of her story came so suddenly and disappointingly that I was a little rattled by it - the way it was completely glossed over and thrown in there, as though it was just a detail that needed to be wrapped up. Eden doesn’t even stop to feel a pang of sadness or anything. The time dedicated to Cora early on warrants a bit more than the one sentence mention towards the end of the book.)
But even with Eden’s slight Mary Sue-ness, there was something about Eden that was just obnoxious. I don’t know if was the way she thought she was tough (but stupid, which she never managed to mention) or the way she seemed to go out of her way to be the typical “I know everything” young adult, but it was really.really.annoying.
The last major issue I had with the story was the fact that to understand it, you have to literally diagram Eden’s family tree. Too many people who were related distantly or in more than one way (we’re talking brother/cousins here). It was ridiculously hard to keep track of who was who and what their relationship was to everyone else. I had to keep going back and rereading parts just to understand who was related to who and how they were related. I’m not a stupid person, but I couldn’t keep it straight in my head, and I found that irritating.
Overall, I can’t say I felt good at the end of this book. I really wanted to. I liked the premise a lot. I liked the magic, the ideas, the very weak foundation the story was built on. The book was too short to really get into that foundation, which was disappointing, and is keeping me from really recommending the book. And unlike at the end of Prospero Lost, I don’t feel any real need to go on to the second story.
Yes, there are two more Eden Moore stories…that I’ve added to my Amazon wishlist, by the way, but I don’t really intend to buy. Someone might buy them for me if they’re looking for gift ideas, that’d be fine. I’d read them. If I happen upon them at a used bookstore or a library sale (or something like that) for a good price, I’ll pick them up. Until then, farewell Eden. It’s been real.
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.