From School Library Journal
The first thing you should know about Ariel is that she's a liar. With this grabber, Tiffany takes the characters from Shakespeare's The Tempest and provides background as to how they get to the point where readers find them in the play. The story spans centuries, beginning with Ariel's birth from the head of a luckless sailor, who was blown across the Atlantic in the fifty-eighth Year of Our Lord and ending with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World. In between, readers meet Caliban, Prospero, Miranda, Antonio, Alonso, Gonzalo, and Ferdinand. While the general story line remains the same, Tiffany alters some of the details in an attempt to show the motives behind the characters' behaviors. For instance, Tinkerbell-like Ariel serves Prospero because she doesn't want the magician to re-imprison her inside the tree where he first found her. Caliban, not literally a monster, walks with a deformed leg because Ariel refused to help his mother during his difficult birth. Miranda befriends him and makes her sexual desires known; thus, he is totally innocent of making improper advances. Other characters include an innocent Alonso; a spoiled, simpering Ferdinand whom Miranda eventually rejects; and a devoted, loving Caliban who wins her heart in the end. The author seems to have structured her ideas in keeping with a revisionist interpretation of the play as a condemnation of European colonialism. The prose is well written and easy to follow, using language that suggests the Bard's poetry. This is a good adjunct to the play and, in the tradition of Robin McKinley's Beauty (HarperCollins, 1978), a means of familiarizing modern-day readers with the heroes of a classic tale, while taking some interesting liberties with the original ideas.–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI
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Born from the dreams of a shipwrecked sailor, Ariel, the spirit from Shakespeare's The Tempest, sparks this retelling, or, perhaps more accurately, pretelling. When the sailor dies, Ariel does not, and spends the following centuries shifting from one fantastical form to another, amusing herself in solitude until a very practical and very pregnant woman named Sycorax lands on her island to give birth to Caliban. Sycorax's lack of imagination confounds, then diminishes Ariel until she is weak enough to be imprisoned in a tree for her unwillingness to offer Sycorax any practical assistance. It is there Ariel remains while Caliban grows from infant to child, there that she becomes increasingly enraged. Preying on the dreams of the child, Ariel seeks revenge. By the time Prospero and his daughter, Miranda, arrive on the island, Ariel has found a way to manipulate certain tendencies in the human mind to gain her freedom and increase her power. This lush, lyrical, and elegantly expressive work is a strong mix of solid narrative storytelling, sensitive characterization, and fantasy. A familiarity with The Tempest enriches the reading but is not required, especially as the author so thoroughly liberates the story. An outstanding addition to Shakespearean retellings for strong teen readers. Holly Koelling
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