Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Book Review: Prospero's Children

Fern and Will Capel, the children of a feckless art dealer, find themselves sharing the remote farmhouse he has inherited with his current, and sinister, mistress. Something snuffles outside; a stone in the garden, which bears an odd resemblance to a passing tramp, moves in the night; a wolfish dog befriends them. Dreams and sleepwalking and the most remarkable videotape ever watched provide 16-year-old Fern with evidence that the world is not the controllable, rational place she thought it was--and that her own future is to be altogether more remarkable, and full of pain and wisdom, than she has expected.

Siegel was a completely new to me author when I picked this book up at the (semi)local used book store.  I had seen it around for a bit, but for whatever reason I didn't pick it up until an idle Saturday afternoon.  It caught my interest then with tales of a mermaid and Atlantis and a magical destiny.  This isn't as old as I thought it was either--published originally in 1999, I thought this was from the 80's.

The beginning is simply captivating.  The story begins with a mermaid who makes a bargain with a fisherman, though neither enter into the deal in good faith.  The fisherman demands she pay him back for the life she took (she killed his son after her capture) and in turn the mermaid offers a key to a treasure they can never touch.  This sets into motion events that encompass Fern and her family centuries later.

I didn't really warm to Fern.  She's 16 going on 50 it feels like.  Levelheaded, composed and seemingly devoid of the teen characteristics one expects she seems so...remote.  Even as she acknowledges that her attitude or behavior is out of character for herself, those moments don't serve to warm the reader to her at all.

This is also a very languid novel.  Many things happen that defy reason, but the pace of the book doesn't alter one iota.  Siegel determinedly forges forward detailing the Capel children's investigations with very little determent.  Their father's sinister girlfriend does creepy things at night--first investigate, ask questions, test the theory, then form a plan.

The writing is very dense though despite the languid pace.  So much happens in so little time that's its easy to feel like the book is much longer than it is (barely 350pgs, which is nothing by today's fantasy standards) or that you haven't progressed very far into the book.

Mainly I became engrossed in the story because Siegel ties in the Atlantean mythology with other mythologies.  The back of my edition had a glossary and a character list, offering tidbits about how this or that name related to other mythologies.  Its very obvious that Siegel spent a lot of time researching and it shows in her writing.  Her words shine the best when this or that character is discussing history (or as happens later, the past is brought to life in vivid detail).  Siegel really immerses you in the scene.

I plan on reading the next two books (which I am given to understand Fern progresses in age as the books go on so that we end with her as a young woman).  I want to see how this plays out and whether Siegel is able to keep the immersive feel going for another 600+ pages or not.