A prequel in desperate need of a sequel.
As a true Dune tragic, I was delighted to see a prequel to the original which fills in some of the gaps in the Dune universe, particularly in relation to Lady Jessica. If you have not read the other novels, this one can certainly stand on its own. Short chapters work well to keep up the pace of the narrative, but I was less engaged by the new characters as they contributed little to the story.
This book is set a year before the original novel, at the close of The Duke of Caladan, and begins with Lady Jessica having been recalled to Wallach IX, where she grew up, by the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. Having betrayed them by having a son, Paul, rather than the daughter she was ordered to bear (the Sisters can determine the sex of their offspring), she is warned that reuniting with Paul may destroy the order.
Of course, the problem with all prequels is that you already know what happens to the characters. So while I appreciated more background on the main characters, the epic events in this novel seem to have been almost totally forgotten only a short time later in Dune, which is also true of important characters in this book. By the time I had finished the book I was wondering why they bothered as several characters and events seemed to add nothing to the overall timeline, and so many things were left unfinished, the title should have been “The Lady of Caladan Part 1”.
I presume the cliff-hanger finish was to leave me wanting more but I just felt frustrated as rarely do books in the Dune series leave so much hanging. If you assume that The Duke of Caladan and now The Lady of Caladan are the first two in a series then the nature of the book makes it absolutely clear that there must be a new book coming. One wonders which of the people of Caladan will be the subject of the next book and whether Herbert and Anderson wrap it up to give a satisfactory segue to the original Dune.
Despite the disappointments, the book is an interesting read with all the old familiar characters doing what we expect them to do. If, like me, you are a Dune tragic then you will need to read this book as everyone will get something new from the story.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: September 2021
This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.