Publisher: WordFire Press
Series: The Caladan trilogy (#2)
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 21/09/2021
Returning to Wallach IX in disgrace, Jessica finds herself at the centre of a philosophical rift that could tear apart the Bene Gesserit. On Caladan, the young Paul struggles to fulfil his duties. And on Kaitain, Leto Atreides begins to question the value of the honour he has clung to all his life . . .
Taking us back to the year prior to the original Dune, the Caldan trilogy continues with a book that puts Jessica front and centre. For a character so important to the overall story of Dune, it’s remarkable that she has received so little attention. perhaps only The Winds of Dune makes full use of her story. That’s an oversight being corrected for by both The Lady of Caladan and the 2021 film adaptation of Dune. Jessica is a pivotal player in the upbringing of Paul Atreides. One of people who most informs his sense of personal responsibility and moral duty. It’s about time she had a book of her own.
The Bene Gesserit have been a major player in almost every book in the Dune canon (expanded or otherwise), and here we get to see some of the inner workings. It’s all very tense and gripping in the moment, but from a wider perspective the most fascinating part is the toll the Kwisatz Haderach breeding programme is taking on the Sisterhood. Yes, it’s everything they’ve been working towards for hundreds of years, but that doesn’t mean the Sisters are united in their goals. There’s plenty of infighting, and even with the best intentions, disputes are inevitable. But when you’re a society of superhuman warriors, disputes can easily turn murderous. And when the intentions are far from the best? Well that’s when things get downright bloody.
There is of course more to this book than a character study of Jessica and an analysis of the Bene Gesserit. Paul’s own journey is complementary to his mother’s, paralleling the theme of duty and obligation that runs through the book. The Imperium says everyone has their place in society after all, even if noble houses are encouraged to vie for those positions. Knowing where Paul’s story is headed, his formative experiences here are laced with foreboding. Perhaps the heaviest foreshadowing is his search for the girl in his dreams, and even if Chani doesn’t make an appearance in this book, her importance to Paul is all the greater for her elusiveness.
It’s Leto’s arc that falls short of the others. Thematically, it is perfect. Like the rest of his family, he grapples between his own sense of honour, a duty to the Imperium, and a moral obligation to give his son the best head-start in life that he is able to provide. This brings him into contact, and conflict, with the Noble Commonwealth – a terrorist movement aimed at increasing the power of the noble houses at the expense of the Emperor. It’s this connection that is lacing any real bite. Knowing how close we are to the status quo established in Dune, we know that the Commonwealth will come to nothing. It’s a problem that comes whenever a prequel is written. You know where we’re headed, and the prequel should make sense of the journey rather than adding false leads. If the Commonwealth were established as an obvious-to-fail uprising, then it could have carried the same tragic weight as the rest of the book, but as it stands, the tension Anderson and Hebert build ultimately goes nowhere.
Nevertheless, The Lady of Caldan is another fine outing for the Dune saga, and will appeal to fans of both book and film alike. And if anything can bring those two groups into harmony, who am I to complain?