What happens after The Tempest ends? Miranda in Milan, Katharine Duckett’s recently published debut novel, picks up where Shakespeare’s play leaves off. Read an excerpt from the first chapter.
When Miranda came to Milan, she found she was a monster.
She’d been given a queen’s welcome in Naples, that lovely city on the sea, but as they’d moved inland, the warm breeze had left them, and she found herself among stony-eyed strangers who refused her gaze, who seemed loath to touch her flesh. They treated her like Caliban, her ladies-in-waiting and royal relatives.
They arrived in Milan on a cold, gray day, and as they approached, the castle of her ancestors looked more like a prison than her rightful home. Its high ramparts stretched into the mist, leached of color by the pendulous clouds, and its black mouth gaped wide, swallowing them as their carriage passed through the gates. Miranda trembled, for she could no longer see the sky. Her whole life through, sea and sky had surrounded her: with neither in sight to give her bearings, she hardly knew where she was.
Her father had vanished into the labyrinth of the castle as soon as they arrived, seizing back the rooms his usurping brother, Antonio, had taken over while Prospero was in exile, gathering his left-behind books, and sequestering himself in his libraries to pore over the new tomes that he demanded his servants bring him right away, the advances in alchemy that he had missed while on the island. He left her with barely a word after ordering the servants to settle Miranda into her rooms, though he had insisted that she accompany him here, to see her home once more before she married Ferdinand and settled in Naples.
“I thought we were married?” she’d said, in the carriage. He had turned to her, eyes still on the countryside out the window, and replied, “Hm? Oh, yes—but marriages of princes are contentious things, and the island where you were wed exists on no map. We’ll let the Neapolitans take care of the formalities, the law. There’s no hurry, now that we’ve returned.”
She did not understand what this meant: she knew nothing of law, or of marriage, or of the nuances of love, though she did her best to grasp their meanings. Her father had never spoken to her of these matters in any depth, and now, in her rightful homeland, she began to realize how much she did not know, how much she could not ask. The island they had left behind held fathomless mysteries, but it also moved to natural rhythms Miranda could observe and decipher: the animal cries that rose and fell with dawn and dusk, the changing patterns of certain leaves that signified shifts in the seasons. But she could not work out the chaotic patterns of the men and women of the mainland, and she especially could not fathom why they recoiled from her, why the ladies at her elbows hurried her so from place to place, why they made her wear a full black veil, its lacy darkness obscuring her vision like storm clouds moving over sun.
Only a few weeks before, she had felt jubilant on the shores of her island. For a dozen years she and Prospero had lived in isolation on their lonely stretch of sand, cast out from their homeland after her uncle Antonio usurped her father and claimed the dukedom of Milan for his own, and for Naples. Prospero told her the sad tale of how Antonio had worked with the king of Naples to bring about Prospero’s downfall, using scurrilous claims about his magic to unseat Prospero from the throne and turn good men against him. Her father had shipwrecked Antonio and the Neapolitans on their humble isle in order to bring his perfidy to light, revealing her uncle’s evil deeds.
“Now,” her father had proclaimed to the assembled men, his clever plan complete, “we will fly swift to Italy, and my Miranda will claim her birthright as a duke’s daughter and take her place beside noble Ferdinand as princess of Naples.”
She’d watched Ferdinand embrace his father, King Alonso, with tears of joy, for each had thought the other drowned in the storm that brought them to this strange isle, the storm her father had created. Her father had his arms around Gonzalo, the counselor from Naples who had shown them kindness many years before, giving them provisions that had seen them through their terrible journey at sea. Rightful order was restored, their sorrow was now ended, and all was well in Milan and Naples once more.
Yet her uncle Antonio’s silence disquieted her. He stood outside the circle of warmth, speaking not a word as the air around him rang with laughter and glad cries. His chilly hush, she thought at first, must of course owe its cause to the exposure of his treachery. But no, she saw shock upon his face, as though he had glimpsed some ghost there, on the beach, some vision that chilled him to the bone, even in the island’s gentle heat.
Yet it was not Prospero he looked upon with haunted, salt-burned eyes.
It was her.
From Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett. Excerpted with permission from Tor Dot Com Publishing, copyright 2019
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