Miranda in Milan
by Katharine Duckett
Tor.com Books. 204 pages, $14.99
Shakespeare’s Tempest ends with Miranda, the daughter of the exiled sorcerous Prospero, engaged to Ferdinand, the prince of Naples. Having spent most of her life on an island with only her father and various supernatural beings for company, she falls hopelessly in love with the first young man she sees. Katherine Duckett’s fantasy novel picks up from there and describes what happens when Miranda, back in her ancestral home in Milan, meets a mysterious serving girl named Dorothea. It’s lust at first sight as she explores the brave new world of same-sex attraction. Perhaps being raised by a warlock made it inevitable that Miranda would fall for someone like Dorothea, a witch with a murky past who can alter her appearance and enter other people’s dreams while they sleep.
Although the main characters are drawn from Shakespeare, Miranda in Milan’s plot is derived from classic Gothic novels. Upon arriving in Italy from their enchanted island, Prospero forcibly separates Miranda from Ferdinand and takes her to their family palace in gloomy Milan. Miranda is locked in her chambers like a prisoner with few visitors except for a grim governess and Dorothea. Luckily, escape is easy because Prospero’s palace has more hidden passages than Otranto’s castle. Miranda finds herself at the center of several mysteries, including a portrait that must remain covered by decree, a masked figure who wanders the hallways at night, a prisoner locked deep underground, and necromantic shenanigans in a secret laboratory. With a little help from Dorothea’s witchcraft, Miranda solves these puzzles, overthrows the patriarchy, and even questions her own role as a privileged colonialist. It may seem like a lot to pack into a short book, but Duckett keeps the plot focused and the writing brisk as she moves toward a sunny ending.