Dune: The Lady of Caladan, released today, is the second book in the planned “Caladan Trilogy”, written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. The story takes place in the 12 months leading up to events in Frank Herbert’s first Dune novel, and the new Dune movie, which, depending on which country you are in, is either out now or premiering a bit later this year.
As Dune opens, House Atreides are already set to leave Caladan, having been rewarded control of Arrakis by the Emperor. Duke Leto knows full well this is pretense and that he will be leading his family and people into a trap. But what drove House Corrino and House Harkonnen to join forces and set this plot against the Atreides in motion? This prequel series addresses that question and expands on the setting’s rich lore.
Following review avoids spoilers, however note that this is a direct continuation to developments of Dune: The Duke of Caladan, published last year. We’ve previously reviewed that first book in the trilogy.
Following dire warning from the Kwisatz Mother over Paul’s future, Jessica, the titular Lady, has been recalled to Wallach IX, the Bene Gesserit home planet, seemingly straining her relationship with the Duke to a breaking point.
Leto journeys to Kaitain, looking to expand House Atreides’s influence in the Imperium, following the terrorist attacks in the previous novel. There he struggles with balancing the Atreides honor and securing the future of their House for his son.
This leaves Paul as acting Duke, and provides for plenty of moments of interaction between him and his teachers, especially Gurney and Duncan—both of whom seem to end up taking Paul to places a 15-year-old probably shouldn’t be going!
Over on Giedi Prime, Baron Harkonnen must choose his own heir, and charges his nephews—Feyd and Rabban—to find ways to impress him (likely at the expense of House Atreides), while the Baron himself continues to develop his own plan that will come to fruition in Dune.
Meanwhile Jaxson Aru, leader of the Noble Commonwealth continues his plan to overthrow the Imperium, and decides that having the noble House Atreides on his side would convince many others to join the cause, but the Duke has plans of his own.
As with any prequel story, much of the suspense is lost—we know the fate of many of the featured characters. The enjoyment here is in the journey rather than the destination, and watching pieces of the Baron’s plan slowly fall into place in the background nicely fills in some of the background to Dune.
While the title may suggest that Lady Jessica is the featured character, her interactions in book two are primarily with the Bene Gesserit on Wallach IX. But with Jessica returned to her homeworld, we learn much about her history and upbringing in the Sisterhood, the early signs of her rebellious streak, and her longing for a family of her own. Matters are further complicated when Gaius Helen Mohiam returns to confront Jessica, encounters that take on an extra dimension if you are familiar with the extended Dune lore.
The chapters are fairly short, with each chapter focusing on one of the many characters, planets, and plots. There is plenty of action and adventure in an easy to read light sci-fi style, rather than Frank Herbert’s hard science fiction. This makes the story much more accessible, although without same depth as the original saga—though few books can match those masterpieces!
Let’s also address the sandworm in the sietch; this is the latest in the line of expanded universe books by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. For some, the original novels by Frank Herbert are the only Dune books that exist, and if you haven’t enjoyed the extensions to the saga, then The Lady of Caladan is not going to change your mind.
I found Lady to be a fun and enjoyable piece of sci-fi, set in the Dune universe, and while I occasionally wondered if Paul would really have done “X” or Jessica would have said “Y”, it is possibly my favorite of the newer Dune novels. I’m looking forward to reading the concluding novel, Heir of Caladan, set for release next year (October 18).
Being the second book in a trilogy (let alone the wider Dune saga), I’m unable to recommend it as a first Dune novel, but if you enjoyed The Duke of Caladan you’ll certainly enjoy this latest addition to the universe and if you haven’t read Duke yet I can recommend that instead!
Dune: The Lady of Caladan is out now and available in print, eBook, and audiobook formats. Shop on Amazon or click on the cover below to start reading a free preview.