Review: Rough Magic by Caryl Cude Mullin

25 Oct

Publisher: Second Story Press
Released: September, 2009
Genre: YA fantasy
One sentence summary: Mystical magic with some Shakespeare thrown in.
Review copy from publisher.

Out in the midst of the ocean, rising out of the rough seas, lies a mysterious island.

It has seen visitors over the years, and has learned to fear them. Humans have done nothing but take, stealing the island’s magic and enslaving its spirits.

Caliban, born to a great sorceress who was marooned on the island’s shores, grew up half-wild with its creatures. Having escaped the island to live amongst kingdoms and courtiers for many years, he now finds himself returning with his young charge Chiara, a girl who has a power within her that no one suspected. Once back on the island they are joined by Calypso, a magical young woman with ties to them all.

Inspired by The Tempest, Shakespeare’s famous play of love, loyalty, and magic, it is the island and its power that draws them all back. But this time the dragon who lives at the bottom of the sea has been awakened and must be satisfied. It will be up to the humans to strike a balance between their power and the natural world.

From Second Story Press website.


Here’s the thing: I don’t read a lot of straight fantasy (or really ANY straight fantasy) but Rough Magic sounded interesting and I’m all for supporting local writers, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. And I really enjoyed it – for the most part.

I was surprised by how quickly I was sucked into Rough Magic. Usually when I try to read fantasy my eyes glaze over and I have a hard time keeping all of the characters straight. But this was an engaging book and straight off I was interested in the story. I am, after all, a sucker for the dark arts.

While the blurb on the back of the book makes it seem like the whole book is about Caliban and what happens when he’s back on the Island, this is really just a small part of the story. The book actually starts off with him Mom as a child and a good chunk of the book is about her life, the choices and sacrifices she made, and I really, really dug it. A lot. I thought, “Wow, this is a super book!”. Then I hit around page 171 and, unfortunately, things went a bit downhill from there.

Now, this is based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a play I have neither read nor seen, so my misgivings about the latter part of the book may be because of that. But once they return to the Island, things got really wonky and weird for me. There’s a Leviathan and people turning into dragons  but not really and just a lot of stuff I didn’t understand.

Like I said, I don’t generally read fantasy, and  maybe if I did I would have liked the last chapters of Rough Magic a lot more. But for me they were far fetched and I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much as the first parts of the book.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that since it’s a genre unfamiliar to me based on a play that’s unfamiliar to me, you should take this review with a grain of salt. If you’re a fan of fantasy, then you’ll probably enjoy this book. For me, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if Caliban hadn’t returned to the Island, because up until that part Rough Magic was a super read.


One Response to “Review: Rough Magic by Caryl Cude Mullin”

  1. amymckie October 25, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    Too bad this didn’t do it for you as much, though glad to hear the first part was good at least!

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