Prospero Lostby L. Jagi Lamplighter
Miranda, daughter of the magician Prospero from Shakespeare's Tempest, lives in the modern age. Upon discovering that her father has gone missing, she must discover the location of her other siblings and convince them to save their father, before the Three Shadowed Ones destroy the Family Prospero. She is accompanied by her company gumshoe, an airy spirit stuck in a body that looks a bit like Humphrey Bogart. Humor, mystery, wonder.
Miranda, the daughter of the sorcerer Prospero and heroine of Shakespeare's The Tempest, now enjoys eternal youth in a contemporary world, along with her siblings and her father. When Prospero vanishes and Miranda discovers that hostile forces known only as the Three Shadowed Ones seek her family's magic, she sets out on a journey, accompanied by Mag, a bound air spirit who possesses the personality of a hard-nosed private eye, and her half-mad brother, Mephistopheles, to warn her siblings and rescue her father. VERDICT Lamplighter plays fast and loose with Shakespeare in this modern-day fantasy filled with homages to both the Bard and John Milton. The infighting among Miranda and her siblings recalls the complex family relationships of Roger Zelazny's "Chronicles of Amber" series and proves simultaneously infuriating and delightful. Intelligent and eminently enjoyable, this series opener by a first-time author is a first-rate choice for fans of mythic urban fantasy.
- WordFire Press
- Publication date:
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- 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.93(d)
Read an Excerpt
By L. Jagi Lamplighter, James Frenkel
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2009 L. Jagi Lamplighter
All rights reserved.
It was after midnight when I discovered Father's last message.
After a long day of work, I had been relaxing in the lesser hall of Prospero's Mansion in Oregon, flipping through one of my father's old journals, when I came across a blank page. An intuition from my Lady prompted me to hold the book up to the phoenix lamp.
With a loud crackle, red-gold sparks leapt from the burning phoenix feather housed in a glass lantern beside the hearth and crawled across the journal, scorching words into the parchment. A strong odor of burnt paper and cinnamon filled the air. I nearly dropped the book.
I had seen secrets revealed by the phoenix lamp before. Father had a habit of scribbling notes in the margins that could only be read in this way. Normally, the letters appeared slowly. This smoldering script was something new.
The blazing letters read:
My Child: I have unwittingly unleashed powers best kept bound. If I fail to constrain them, they will destroy me and all I have wrought. If you have not seen me since the writing of this message, assume the worst and warn the family. Counsel my children to keep close the gifts I have bestowed. Beware the Three Shadowed Ones!
I turned the page, but the rest of the journal was blank, even by phoenix lamp.
Was Father in trouble, or was this another of his pranks? Our family had many supernatural enemies. We had bound many malevolent creatures throughout our long lives, any number of which could have broken free of their restraints. On the other hand, in the last century or so, Father seemed to handle every difficulty that came his way with ease. This letter was most likely one of Father's many jests, set up years ago to startle any youngster unlawfully searching his books. Finding no further evidence that this message had been written recently — and not knowing any method by which he could have sent it into the book from a distance — I dismissed it and continued reading.
That night, letters of flame troubled my dreams.
The next morning, I sent one of the invisible spirits of the air who serve our family to Prospero's Island. (Father refused to keep any kind of phone. He claimed the "constant caterwauling of that new-fangled contraption" disturbed his concentration.) If Peaseblossom found him at home, she was to tell him of the laugh he might have at my expense.
Only, he was not there.
It took Peaseblossom six days to circumnavigate the globe, reach my father's island retreat, and return to Oregon. Upon returning, she reported that the Aerie Ones on Prospero's Island were agitated. Great Prospero had not returned from his most recent voyage, even though he had been expected several months ago. Nor could his servants find him anyplace upon the earth.
This news disturbed me. Never in my long life could I recall a time when the Aerie Ones had been unable to find Father. It was time to act. I sent for Mab.
I DECIDED to meet with Mab in the Everblooming Gardens, as I seldom could afford to take time from my busy workday to enjoy them. This botanical wonderland, which one reached by leaving the house through a back door, was always in bloom, no matter the season. It lay between Prospero's Mansion and a tall stone wall, beyond which stood an enclosed forest of aspens and virgin pines. At the garden's center, in the midst of the flower beds, a fountain leapt, the water rushing and gurgling.
I sat at a wrought-iron table next to the fountain, stirring my tea. My hair, so pale as to appear silver, was piled atop my head in a Grecian style that had gone out of vogue more than a century ago. My garment, a tea gown with a high lacy collar — the enchanted satin of which matched the emerald of my eyes — was also of a bygone age. Fashions change so quickly. Long ago, I had stopped bothering to keep up.
As I reached for another sugar cube, Mab, our company's head gumshoe, came slouching down the path, his hands stuck in the pockets of his gray trench coat. He was the granite-faced, hard-boiled type. Too many years of chasing supernatural perpetrators had given him an intense dislike of all things arcane. He might have passed for human himself, had he not looked so precisely like a detective from a 1940s movie.
Coming up beside me, Mab respectfully removed his fedora and gave me a nod. Mab and I had worked together on numerous occasions, though I never called on him personally unless the matter was one of particular importance. Lesser matters I left to his men.
"You wanted to see me, Ma'am?" he asked, in his Bronx accent. There was a sardonic quality to everything Mab said; even his terms of polite address, such as "Ma'am" sounded defiant.
"Mab, are you familiar with the Three Shadowed Ones? The name sounds vaguely familiar, but I can't place them."
"Don't know, Ma'am, but they sound like bad customers. If you want my opinion, you'll turn down whatever they're offering and stick to legitimate mundane business."
"This has nothing to do with me ..." I began.
"Glad to hear it, Ma'am," Mab picked up his hat and turned to leave.
I frowned severely to express my disapproval. Secretly, I was amused. I appreciated his concern for my safety but would have preferred if his methods had bordered less upon insubordination. Still, he was a superb detective and as loyal to Prospero, Inc. as an old hound dog.
"It's about my father. I have reason to believe he may be in danger."
Mab froze in the act of returning his fedora to his head. "From these 'Three Shadowy Ones'?"
"Shadowed. It's Three Shadowed Ones."
"Too bad. Rather liked the old man."
"I didn't say he was dead!"
"Playing with fire gets you burned, Ma'am," Mab said. "Playing with the supernatural gets you dead. You gotta take my word on this. I destroyed my share of meddling humans in my youth. I know how the game is played. I told your old man he'd run afoul of one of us someday, if he kept putting his nose where it didn't belong. And the nose of a human never belongs sniffing about in the arcane."
Mab had been one of the blustery winds before he agreed to inhabit a fleshly body, and he was blustery still. When dealing with Aerie Ones, it was often quicker to let them say their piece and then nip any further impertinence in the bud rather than to try to restrain them.
Because of this, I was in the habit of allowing Mab to rattle on, but this did not mean that I allowed his doom-and-gloom speeches to ruffle me; gales may blow, but a queenly peak remains undisturbed.
Besides, what use was asking a detective for advice if one did not listen to what he advised?
"We're not here to discuss Father," I clarified in my calm and business like fashion, "although I want you to have your men begin searching for him. We're here because my father left a note saying that these Three Shadowed Ones might be a threat to my siblings and me. He asked that I warn the family, and so, I shall do so. However, it has been years since I've spoken with most of my brothers. I want you to help me find them."
"Your personal safety comes first, Ma'am. I suggest you rid yourself of all supernatural devices. It's a matter of security, Ma'am. When you stink of magic, it draws them like a beacon. If you rid yourself of magic, no supernatural being will be able to sniff you out." Mab tossed his hat onto the table and counted off his points on his fingers. "Quench the phoenix feather. Burn the magical tomes in the library. Empty the Vault. Unravel your enchanted gown. Dismantle the wind-slicing fan. Destroy the orrery. Pour out the Water of Life. Free us Aerie Spirits who are in service to you. Oh, and break that accursed flute. That should do it. You'll be safe then."
I smiled behind my teacup. It always came down to the flute. Not that I blamed him. If a flute controlled my free will, I would plot its destruction, too. Ignoring the rest, I limited my reprimand to his mistake of fact.
"The orrery is mechanical, Mab. It is made of clockwork."
Mab frowned. "It looks arcane. I'd destroy it to be on the safe side."
"Mab ..." I began sternly.
"My brothers. I want you to help me find my brothers."
"You won't be expecting me to find the dead one, too, will you?" he growled.
"Could you?" I inquired, taken aback.
Mab crossed his arms. "Hrumph! Wouldn't if I could. Same as I told your father."
A chill ran down my spine. I felt relieved not to have been privy to that conversation!
"Let's stick to my six living brothers ... oh, and my sister."
"I don't know your brothers, Ma'am, excepting Mr. Mephistopheles and Mr. Ulysses. However, if the others are anything like them, I don't think I'd care to meet them, thank you. Might be better if you left well enough alone."
I inclined my head regally. "Ordinarily, Mab, I would quite agree with you, but as Father has specifically asked ..." I paused and asked curiously, "When did you meet Ulysses?" I knew he had met Mephisto on one of the many occasions when my brother came by to borrow money.
"It was back when Mr. Prospero was still living here. He had a blue crystal called the Warden that he kept in the Vault. Some gizmo given to him by a two-bit gypsy."
"Oh, yes. I recall. It warned its owner if something was about to be stolen. Worked for quite some time, too."
"Catch was, if the Warden itself was the target of the theft, it didn't work. Ulysses stole the Warden, and then the jewels." Mab shook his head. "I warned him and warned him; it never does to put too much store in magic. Mr. Prospero didn't listen. You take after him a bit, Ma'am."
"Why, thank you, Mab!" I replied, flattered. Mab scowled. "We got the stolen goods back, if I remember, thanks to your good work."
"Bah," Mab spat. "How is any self-respecting detective supposed to track a teleporting thief? He let us have them back is more like it. Even then, two of the pieces we recovered turned out to be fakes."
Mab's point regarding my brothers was well taken. With the exception of Theophrastus, they had become a sorry lot nowadays. Theo ... well, I would face that hurdle when I came to it. Normally, I would not have even considered squandering the time and resources necessary to search for them, but Father had asked it of me, and Father's requests could not be ignored, even if I disagreed with them.
"Mab ... I want to find my brothers." I remained firm. "How would you suggest we begin?"
Mab rubbed his jaw. Like every tough guy since Bogart's Philip Marlow, he showed half a day's growth of beard. Only, bodies inhabited by Aerie Ones do not change, so it must have been put there deliberately. "I'd start by finding out what we already know, Ma'am. Do we know where any of them are?"
"We will ask." I whistled for the butler.
As we waited, I sipped my tea, savoring the strong minty flavor of the pennyroyal. A soft breeze blew through the enclosed forest that lay beyond the stone wall surrounding the gardens, causing the pine needles to whisper and the aspen leaves to make their peculiar clapping sound. I listened to the chatter of three magpies and enjoyed the soft caress of the balmy air as it mingled the delicate scents of lilac and hyacinths with the heady perfume of honeysuckle and roses, as well as the faint odor of pine.
Breathing the fragrant air, I had a hard time believing that if I were to leave the mansion by the front door, or even walk through the archway into the enclosed forest behind me, I would step into the sharp chill of early winter. Prospero's Mansion was situated in Oregon's Cascade Mountains, where December meant cold winds and near-freezing rains.
Taking a last sip of tea, I emptied the tea ball into the remaining liquid and swirled the cup. The tea leaves settled into the patterns for tall dark man and long voyage. Shrugging, I pushed the cup aside. Standard tea-leaf rhetoric, could mean anything.
Meanwhile, Mab stood beside me, frowning and fidgeting with his hat.
From somewhere in the vicinity of my shoulder, my invisible butler spoke. His voice was soft and lilting, as like a flute giving tongue to words.
"All hail, Great Mistress! Vestal Lady, hail! I come to answer your best pleasure; be it to fly, to swim, to dive into the fire, to ride on the curled clouds; to your strong bidding, require of your servant what you will."
I smiled ruefully. The butler had learned English during the reign of King Henry VIII and still spoke much as had the men of that age.
"Ariel, I must contact my brothers. What is our latest information about their whereabouts?"
"Mortals must sow to reap, even so Master Cornelius. Twice yearly, tidings of the yields from his stocks in your father's great company are sent to him in braille at his post box in faraway New York City," Ariel's voice sang.
"I'll send him a letter," I said. "What of the others?"
"The Sun in Scorpio shone when Master Mephistopheles last came weeping to your gates. He had lost that wand, curiously carved and steeped with strong enchantments, which Prospero had bestowed upon him. He claimed to have lost it during a tryst with a damsel of dubious nature; but what became of it, whether lost at sea, or upon the mountains of Tibet, or in remote Hyperborea, he knew not, nor could his addled wits recall. Pity touched even my airy heart to see him, who was once so keen of mind and so skilled of sword, so piteously reduced. Empty-headed and empty-handed he came, and empty-handed went away. You refused him audience."
I shrugged. "He was drunk."
"The cold and adverse wind, which escorted Lord Mephistopheles from the property, reported to me the words he muttered beneath his breath. He sought your noble sister, the Lady Logistilla, in some isolated isle of the Western Indies."
"He'll be lucky if she doesn't turn him into a toad. She has even less patience for his drunkenness than I have. What of the others?"
"I ride the rumor-bearing winds, and what I hear, I know. Of Lord Erasmus, word on the wind is mute. Yet, certain of your servants, mortal men made of clay, found trace of his name in print. The magazine was called Smithsonian; many learned men know it; but fey spiritlings do not."
"You can follow that one up, Mab," I said. Mab nodded. Pulling out a stubby blue pencil, he scribbled something in a small spiral-topped notebook.
"Of the other three, few tidings have been gathered," Ariel continued. "Of Master Titus, no word has been heard by breeze or zephyr, not for two autumns now; and yet you know his art. Our kind never could approach him."
"Probably sat down somewhere and forgot to get up," I murmured. Titus, once a great warrior, had become lazy in recent years.
"Lord Ulysses, you well know, can be everywhere and nowhere, all at once; he is swifter than the swiftest wind, and he hides his deeds. Master Theophrastus is still governed by his strange vow. He has asked the family not to seek him out."
I nodded slowly, considering Ariel's news. How little I knew of the recent doings of my siblings! Once, not so long ago, we had all worked together, back before Mephisto's madness, Gregor's death, and Theo's desertion. Now, that life seemed but a distant dream. I wondered if we would ever do anything together as a family again.
I could feel Ariel still hovering over my shoulder.
"Is there something else, Ariel?"
"Let me remember thee what thou hast promised, which is not yet performed," came the soft answer.
"Oh? And that is?" Though, I knew, of course. We had this conversation nearly every time we spoke. Poor Ariel. He had been having this conversation with Father since his days as Father's personal servant on the island, and he was still harping on the same note now that he had been promoted to running Father's entire establishment. Only when Father retired, he asked Ariel to stay with me, as there were many Aerie Ones back on Prospero's Island but few competent enough to oversee the workings of this vast and multifaceted house.
"Before the time is out? No, Ariel. Neither you, nor any member of your race, will be released from your service to our family until the thousand years of the millennium you swore to serve have gone by. It has been a little over five hundred and fifty years since you swore to Father in 1458, the year of my birth. Be glad that you are finally more than halfway through."
"I pray you remember, I have done you worthy service; told you no lies, made no mistakings, served without grudge or grumbling. Your father, the great and dread magician Prospero, did promise if I accomplished these things to free me one full century early."
Excerpted from Prospero Lost by L. Jagi Lamplighter, James Frenkel. Copyright © 2009 L. Jagi Lamplighter. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
L. Jagi Lamplighter -is also the author of the Prospero's Daughter series: Prospero Lost, Prospero In Hell, and Prospero Regained. She is an assistant editor with the Bad-Ass Faeries Anthologies. She is also a founding member of the Superversive Literary Movement and maintains a weekly blog on the subject. When not writing, she switches to her secret identity as wife and stay-home mom in Centreville, VA, where she lives with her dashing husband, author John C. Wright, and their four darling children, Orville, Ping-Ping, Roland Wilbur, and Justinian Oberon.
Her website is: http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/
Her blog is at: http://arhyalon.livejournal.com/
On Twitter: @lampwright4
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Perfect blend of myth, religion, the classics, and humor.
Contrary to how that Elizabethan author distorted the truth with his Tempest in a teapot drama, Prospero the Sorcerer did not burn his tomes or shatter his staff. He has nothing against the Bard as truth does not set you free; it gets you executed. Instead Prospero lived; having more children besides his famous daughter Miranda (that Shakespeare is worse than a tabloid writer as he cannot keep the family out) even if he made his daughter the heroine of his outrageous popular fabrication. They live in modern society quite comfortably as the family patriarch formed Prospero Inc. whose corporation mission is to negotiate deals with elementals to prevent natural disasters; Miranda is the overworked CEO never taking a break. However, their idyllic lifestyle is disturbed when Miranda realizes her father has vanished into Hell and the Three Shadowed Ones are after the family magic. Miranda, Mag the air spirit possessing a hard-boiled private eye, and her certifiable brother Mephistopheles begin a quest to rescue Prospero and warn her dysfunctional siblings to beware the Three Shadowed Ones while she also fails to avoid Ferdinand the jilted one. Using humor, L. Jagi Lamplighter cleverly pays homage to Shakespeare and to a degree John Milton's Paradise Lost and maybe Found in this wonderful modern day satire. Miranda tries to play the heroine by warning her siblings, but they loathe her for being the Bard's pet and jealous for her fame treating her as a pariah. Their mistreatment of their renowned sister makes none of the siblings likable even as she once again is the responsible one trying to save their lives. Ironically they assume some new Bard will write her story. Fans who enjoy a comedic urban fantasy will relish the return of Miranda the workaholic as she attempts to battle the Three Shadowed Ones, rescue her dad and warn her family who ignore her as they believe she is just a glory hound. Harriet Klausner