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Dune: The Lady of Caladan


Dune: The Lady of Caladan

It seems as good a time as any to be in possession of a new installment in the Dune franchise. Excitement and anticipation are at an all-time high given the October 22nd release of the feature film Dune. So why not just kick back and experience THE LADY OF CALADAN and explore more of Lady Jessica’s backstory?

The timeframe is the year before the events depicted in Frank Herbert’s classic, DUNE, and picks up the story at the closing point of the prior novel, THE DUKE OF CALADAN. As such, this second volume in the prequel trilogy suffers from what all prequels suffer from when they have characters that stretch into the core story --- we already know what happens to them. In this case, that includes Duke Leto, Lady Jessica, Paul, Duncan and Baron Harkonnen.

But we need to turn that off. Maybe not completely, because readers will constantly analyze the actions of these characters and try to determine if the events and decisions make sense not just in this smaller tale but in the larger scope of the story to come. Which was already written. A long time ago.

"[D]espite knowing the destination, Herbert and Anderson have delivered an exquisite and enjoyable journey --- quite possibly their best book to date."

Lady Jessica has been recalled to Wallach IX, which is the home world for the Bene Gesserit. She has been given warnings about her son, Paul, and the events coming in his future. This puts a strain on her husband, Duke Leto Atreides, who is caught up in his own struggles and stresses. He has left for the planet Kaitain and is trying to expand the power of his House while also securing a solid future for Paul. In the meantime, the 15-year-old has been left in the position of acting Duke, under the protection and tutelage of Duncan and Gurney.

Behind the scenes, Baron Harkonnen is looking for an heir to succeed him. He has charged his nephews with the task of proving to him that one of them is worthy of his attention and, ultimately, his position. His own dark purpose begins to take shape as he aims to wipe out House Atreides.

Action and adventure do unroll at a pretty steady clip in THE LADY OF CALADAN. The short chapters fly by, but there is also some fine work done on exploring the background of Lady Jessica, and the Bene Gesserit’s fears that Jessica and Paul will destroy their order if they are allowed to reunite. Essentially a prisoner now, Jessica must find a way to warn her husband and her son while securing her own freedom.

The Duke finds his own struggles as he seeks to curry favor within the capital of the empire. He plays the role of politician; as with all politicians, there is deception, intrigue and secret deals aplenty. Plus, the Noble Commonwealth is still striking out at the empire and wants House Atreides on their side. This move would be dangerous for Leto and his family.

And bearing the weight of the role of Duke is a heavy burden for young Paul. He struggles with these new charges and tries to do the right thing, never fully aware of the threats that have begun to take shape.

THE LADY OF CALADAN is, without question, Lady Jessica’s book. Though Leto, Paul and the Harkonnen are key cogs, this remains her story and she is the deserved focal point. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson do a fantastic job of weaving a web of intrigue with her and the Bene Gesserit, keeping the story moving along at a steady and enjoyable pace. You can see the pieces beginning to fall into place that ultimately lead to Arrakis and the centerpiece that is Dune. But do not be mistaken into believing that this is not a worthwhile entry in the Dune universe that stands as its own work. It keeps us hanging with a decent cliffhanger, which will be wrapped up in the forthcoming third and final volume.

Without question, THE LADY OF CALADAN builds on the solid foundation that it previously laid out in THE DUKE OF CALADAN. It is exciting, the mysteries revealed are engaging, the characters remain true to who we know them to be, and the road to the Dune we are familiar with grows more evident. The beauty is that, despite knowing the destination, Herbert and Anderson have delivered an exquisite and enjoyable journey --- quite possibly their best book to date.

Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on October 15, 2021

Dune: The Lady of Caladan
by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

  • Publication Date: September 20, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Space Opera
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250765080
  • ISBN-13: 9781250765086