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Prospero's Children

Prospero's Children

4.6 18
by Jan Siegel

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It began ages past in fabled Atlantis, when a mad, power-hungry queen forged a key to a door never meant to be opened by mortal man--its inception would hasten her own death and the extinction of her vainglorious race. For millennia the key lay forgotten beneath the waves, lost amid the ruins of what had been the most beautiful city on Earth. But however jealously the


It began ages past in fabled Atlantis, when a mad, power-hungry queen forged a key to a door never meant to be opened by mortal man--its inception would hasten her own death and the extinction of her vainglorious race. For millennia the key lay forgotten beneath the waves, lost amid the ruins of what had been the most beautiful city on Earth. But however jealously the sea hoards its secrets, sooner or later it yields them up. Now, in present-day Yorkshire, that time has come. And for young Fernanda Capel, life will never be the same again . . .

From the Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
This first in a trilogy of "imaginative" fantasy-adventure novels unlocks the secrets of ancient Atlantis and of a young girl's heart, revealing a world of wonders - and terrors -- like nothing you've read before. "I couldn't put it down." "Beautifully and dramatically written; I can't wait for the next installment!" "Anyone who can put this down after reading the first page has no sense of adventure!"
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Proving that a breath of imagination can rekindle the embers of a spent theme, Siegel enlivens this schematically familiar fantasy with a new twist on the old legend of Atlantis. The sunken island is the former homeland of the mystically minded kind that 16-year-old Fern Capel and her younger brother, Will, encounter when they move to an inherited family house in the Yorkshire countryside. Left to themselves by their loving but oblivious dad, they soon discover that their home is a magnet for sorceresses, shapeshifters, unicorns and god-possessed vessels, all of whom survived the island's cataclysmic collapse into the sea eons before and are drawn by a potent Atlantean talisman--a magic key that unlocks the door between life and death--kept hidden on the premises. When a scheming opportunist misuses the key and accidentally ruptures the barrier separating past and present, feisty Fern, whose maturation draws her own latent magic powers forth, must retrieve it from the antediluvian past it has disappeared into--just as the island is starting to crumble. Much of the novel is struck from the rigid template for modern teenage quest fantasies, but Siegel distinguishes her story once she shifts bearings to the island setting. Though it recapitulates much of the tale already told, this Atlantean interlude is captivating for its vivid depiction of an ancient civilization where exotic beauty, decadent corruption and magical good and evil all commingle. "Our story is over--for a while," says one of the fey folk in the epilogue, and this serviceable debut will have readers anticipating the sequel it portends. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Fern Capel, a remarkably self-possessed 16-year-old, finds the orderly world she has maintained since her mother's death turning upside down when her father inherits a house in Yorkshire from a distant relative. They visit the house, and it isn't long before Fern and her 12-year-old brother Will hear something unpleasant trying to get in at night. Fern encounters a strange man who calls himself Ragginbone and who looks like a tramp, although she's certain there's more to him and his wolf-like dog Lougarry than meets the eye. Ragginbone is a Watcher, on the lookout for a missing key to the Gate of Death, and he thinks Fern is his only hope of finding it. But Fern is challenged by her father's assistant, Alison, who has been searching for the key as well. Fern knows that she has to keep the key away from Alison at all costs, even if it takes her to Atlantis itself. The book is sumptuously written, with a complex and well-devised plot and remarkable realistic characters who grow and change with the narrative. Siegel has taken care to construct an Atlantis that is so convincing that one wonders whether she was there herself. Her luminous prose enhances the action rather than stifling it, and she maintains just the right pace. Fern is especially appealing and is a strong model for girls. A good choice for fantasy fans looking for something original. KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Ballantine, Del Rey, 334p., $6.99. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Donna L. Scanlon; Children's Libn., Lancaster Area Lib., Lancaster, , November 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 6)
Library Journal
When her father inherits a dilapidated mansion in the wilds of Yorkshire, 16-year-old Fernanda Capel senses that the house contains a secret that is at once ancient and deadly. Siegel's first novel combines the atmosphere of a brooding 19th-century Gothic with a modern fantasy that travels back in time from our world to the lost civilization of Atlantis. Vivid descriptions lend veracity to both contemporary and ancient settings, while the youthful protagonist broadens the appeal of this engaging fantasy (the first in a projected trilogy) to YA as well as adult readers. Highly recommended for fantasy collections. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
From the Publisher
"A charming, powerfully imaginative work."

"THIS BOOK WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN . . . A lyrical, captivating first novel of mermaids, magic, lost worlds, and found souls that deserves the large and enthusiastic audience it is sure to find."

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Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt

She had been standing in front of the picture for several minutes before she began to notice it. The other paintings in the gallery were purely abstract but as she stared at this one, waiting for her father, passing the time, shapes began to emerge from the field of nondescript color, vague as shadows on smoke: disconnected fragments of stair, random archways, openings into nowhere, ghostly glimpses of an unfinished labyrinth. Here and there a detail was highlighted, a splinter of sky beyond a broken vault, a segment of window with branching latticework, eye blinks of clarity which seemed to flicker into being even as her gaze skimmed over them. The artist drew her attention to and fro with a skill that was almost disquieting, letting her roam the boundaries of image, then pulling her gradually toward the focus, where an irregular patch of vividly contrasting color was set like a gaudy postage stamp at the very center of the picture. Initially the truncated rectangle, perhaps three inches high, appeared so crowded with microscopic detail that it resembled a vast and complex mosaic, miniaturized until all coherence was lost. But as she studied it, either because her vision became acclimatized or by some contrivance of the artist, the tiny shapes seemed to shift, like a kaleidoscope falling into place, and she found herself looking through a doorway or casement out over a city. Wide streets lined with columns and colonnades, clustered roofs hiding secret alleys, glistening domes, steeples, spires, palaces and terraces, temple-walls and tavern-walls, courtyards, backyards, fountains, gardens. Everything was bathed in the gold of a falling sun, enriching paintwork and stonework, touching the gilding on the domes with pure fire. She did not know what city it was yet it looked both ancient and timeless, a Rome that lived on free of traffic and tourism, a new-built Jerusalem unscarred by warring factions, the seat, maybe, of a higher civilization, older than history, fresh as the world in which it flourished, whose ruins had since crumbled to dust and whose wisdom had long been forgotten. She was not a fanciful girl, or so she told herself, yet her dormant fancy was stirred: she was pierced by a nostalgia for a place she had never seen, for the fairy-tale realms she had always rejected.

"Do you like it?" inquired a voice behind her. "You seem to be rather absorbed."

She turned abruptly. The gallery was carpeted and the owner--she was sure he must be the owner--had approached so quietly she had not heard him. "I don't know," she said. "I haven't decided. It's very interesting."

"So you don't believe in impulsive judgments." The voice was as smooth as pouring cream with a faint intonation of mockery, but whether lofty or merely teasing it was impossible to tell. There was little humor visible in his expression. Glossy pale gray hair framed his face like a steel halo; his café-crème complexion was unlined, creating an effect of careful preservation rather than enduring youth; his eyes were almond-shaped and flecked with glints of yellow light. He was delicately suave, discreetly elegant, gracefully tall. She disliked him immediately, on impulse. "It's an etching," he went on. "Did you know?"

"No, I didn't." Of course she didn't. "I thought etchings had to be in black and white."

"The technique is very complex." Once again, that trace of superiority. "Bellkush has always favored the most difficult approach. The effect, I think, is almost unearthly--those diaphanous layers of subtle color. Almost unearthly. Appropriate, perhaps, to the subject matter."

"What is it called?" she asked, rather as if the question had been wrung out of her.

"Lost City." There was a pause while she felt herself drawn back to the contemplation of that crowded portal. "Are you here to buy?"

"I'm waiting for my father." She dragged her eyes away from the picture. He must know who she was: he had seen them

"Ah ... yes. Robin Capel's daughter. And your name is?"


"How pretty. Also unusual." Her name might have been a piece of bric-a-brac which had attracted his wandering attention.

"I had a Spanish grandfather," she explained, lapsing into her routine excuse. It was untrue, but she had always felt such an exotic appellation needed more justification than her mother's erratic taste. She did not approve of foreign names without foreign blood to back them up.

"Fern!" Her father, his discussions concluded, came toward them, wearing his habitual expression of slightly anxious goodwill. The young woman who worked at the gallery followed in his wake. "So you've met Javier. Er--terrific. Terrific. What were you chatting about?"

"The pictures." The man answered for her.

"I'm afraid you must have found my daughter's taste a bit--well, conservative. She's a very down-to-earth young lady, you know. Likes sitters in portraits to have all their features in the right place, trees to be the proper shade of green--that sort of thing. Only abstract painter I've ever known her to admire is Mondrian. She says he'd make nice kitchen wallpaper."

"That would be a very expensive kitchen," said the man called Javier. Robin and the woman both laughed.

"Daddy, don't make me sound so boring," Fern said, wanting to leave.

"Just a joke, darling. Oh--I'd like you to meet Alison Redmond. We're definitely going to collaborate on the witchcraft book. She'll organize several of the artists here to do the illustrations. It should be a big success. Alison, my daughter Fernanda."

They exchanged a polite handshake. Close up, the woman was not so young: her face was long and pointed with an incongruously full mouth adorning its thin structure and pale narrow eyes between heavily mascaraed lashes. Her off-blond hair was waist-length and worn loose. Had Fern not been too prosaic for such comparisons she would have thought her father's future collaborator resembled a witch herself.

"Terrific," murmured Ms. Redmond. Possibly Fern imagined the same elusive mockery in her voice that she had detected in Javier's smooth accents. For a moment, seeing her father standing between them, she was visited with the illusion that he was somehow trapped, hemmed in by two predatory figures, the man with his superior height and superior smile, the woman with her warmth of manner and coldness of eye. The impression of danger, though fleeting, disturbed her because it seemed out of all proportion to the actual threat. In the six years since her mother died Fern had monitored her father's love-life with the skill of an international statesman, dismissing a succession of unsuitable candidates out-of-hand. The menace here was surely similar, the standard hazard of marauding huntress and hapless prey; she had dealt with it a hundred times, and she had never before experienced any doubts or premonitions. But then, Fern did not believe in premonitions.

Robin shook more hands in farewell, while she resisted an irrational urge to drag him away.

That was the beginning, she decided long afterward. The meeting at the gallery, the sense of menace, the picture. The incident seemed trivial enough at the time but it left her feeling vaguely perturbed, as if the outlying penumbra of some far-flung shadow had brushed the borderline of her bright safe world, or she had caught a few isolated notes of an eerie music which would soon come booming from every corner of the universe, obliterating all other sound. The events of that extraordinary and terrifying summer became perhaps easier to assimilate because she was in some sort prepared: from the moment of that initial encounter an unfamiliar atmosphere began to seep into her life, unsettling her, unbalancing her cultivated equilibrium, making her vulnerable, unsure, receptive to change. She was sixteen years old, well-behaved, intelligent, motivated, a product of the Eighties in which she lived, viewing the world with a practical realism engendered by the early death of her mother and the responsibilities which had devolved on her as a result of it. Her father's easygoing manner had acquired its undercurrent of anxiety from that time, left alone with a small daughter and smaller son, but it was Fern who had gradually taken charge of the household, trading au pair for housekeeper, seeing the bills were paid, bossing her surviving parent, attempting to boss her younger brother. She had coasted through puberty and adolescence without rebellion or trauma, avoiding hard drugs, excessive alcohol, and underage sex. Her future was carefully planned, with no room for surprises. University; a suitable career; at some point, a prudent marriage. She thought of herself as grown-up but behind the sedate façade she was still a child, shutting out the unknown with illusions of security and control. That summer the illusions would be dissipated and the unknown would invade her existence, transforming the self-possessed girl into someone desperate, frightened, uncertain, alone--the raw material of an adult.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Jan Siegel has already lived through one lifetime – during which she travelled the world and supported herself through a variety of professions, including that of actress, barmaid, garage hand, laboratory assistant, journalist and model. Her new life is devoted to her writing, but she also finds time to ride, ski and attends the opera. Jan Siegel lives in England

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Prospero's Children 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had gone to the library to drop some stuff off. I wasn't sure if I wanted to get a book or not, but I ended up scanning through the new books section. I thought this one had a cool cover so I picked it up not even reading about it. I like fantasy but this was phenominal! I could not put it down for the life of me! The use of such expressive language is what caught me off gaurd. Quite original and beautifully written. I'd strongly suggest it to anyone who truly loves fantasy.
Anonymous 13 days ago
Reminded me of why I love fantasy fiction . Was a little hard to get into, but once I got past the first chapter the world opened up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book. However, there is a few parts I don't think are very child friendly. I mean, I wouldn't want my siblings to read it. But I would want to read the next one.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up in Barnes and Noble because I was going to be stuck at work that afternoon. The books that I pick up and take without reading other works usually don't do that well with me, but this was one of the best last minutes I have ever read. The Dragon Charmer was just as good and I'm trying to find The Witch Queen as well.I definitely recommend it, I couldn't put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was at the library the other day, browsing through the sci-fi / fantasy sections. This book caught my eye, so I decided to pick it up and give it a try. Now, I'm glad that I did! It drew me in from the very first page, and after that I couldn't put it down. Prospero's Children is a great read for fantasy fans of all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At the Library not knowing what to get with a friend we randomly selected two books off the shelves, Prospero's childern being one of them, I've spent an entire weekend reading this book, I can't seem to let go, as if I were Fern myself. I can't wait to buy a copy for myself till the end of time. It was the most astonishing read, I've ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a sophomore in high school. Then a few days ago I found this book and said, 'Hey it looks interesting.' I checked it out and I just found the book very outstanding! I could not put it down at the end. I even stayed up till 2am to finish it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just happened to come across this book, and after reading the info. on the book flap, I got hooked. It is one of my favorite books now. Well written! A good book for the fantasy-lover.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i came onto this book by accident. i thought the cover was beautiful, so i bought it. i read the first few pages and fern, will, ragginbone and all the characters pulled me in. this book is a great start for jan siegel. i cant wait until DRAGON CHARMER comes out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It has been a long time since I have enjoyed a fantasy so much. The last time I was so enthralled with this genre was when I was reading the Chronicals of Narnia. I was 9 years old at the time. I can't wait for the next two books in the series.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Yorkshire, teenager Fernanda Capel and her younger brother soon find strange visitors arriving at their new home. Not everyone can claim they play host to unicorns and shapeshifters, but Fern does that and more. Apparently, these species and other so-called mythological creatures endured the cataclysm that sunk Atlantis.

The island's survivors are drawn to the Capel house due to a magical key that opens the gateway between life and death. That ring, forged by a maniacal queen, led to the destruction of Atlantis. When the key is ultimately misused, a portal is opened that could spell the end of life as we know it. Fern is the prime hope of saving a universe by regaining the key, which is now on Atlantis, just prior to the devastation.

Shockingly, a story centering on Atlantis should not seem fresh, yet PROSPERO'S CHILDREN provides a vigorous look at the legendary island. The story line is fun, especially when Fern goes on her quest. Though the tale starts as if it is going to be a teen adventure aimed at that audience, the exciting plot will please fantasy fans of all ages, especially those that enjoy the Atlantis myths.

Harriet Klausner

Guest More than 1 year ago
I grabbed this book basically as a last minute decision, wanting to read a good fantasy but having no luck finding one that sounded good. My last minute decision definitely turned out to be in my favor- it is an excellent book and I can't wait for the next one!