Dune: The Lady of Caladan (Review)

The latest Dune novel arrives this week, bringing a tighter story to the prequel, but some similar issues. Check out our full review!

Last year, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson returned to the Dune franchise with The Duke of Caladan, the first in a new trilogy (appropriately titled The Caladan Trilogy). It was supposed to help herald the new Dune movie adaptation, with this new story being set up as a direct prequel to the original book…Alas, the movie was delayed.

Dune: The Lady of Caladan
Written By: Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Release Date: September 21, 2021
Purchase (Affiliate Link): https://amzn.to/3zqUpaE

But just in time for the movie’s NEW release date, the second novel in the trilogy, The Lady of Caladan, arrives this week. Picking up where the last book left off, it manages to be one of the duo’s more engaging stories, but still retains some familiar problems…

Story Basics

Lady of Caladan picks up the story almost immediately after the events of Duke of Caladan. The Lady Jessica has been forced to return to the Bene Gesserit Mother School or risk putting her entire family in danger. Duke Leto, looking to secure a better legacy for his son, Paul, has arrived on the Imperial Capital to play politics and curry favor.

With both his parents gone, the duties of the Duke fall onto Paul’s young shoulders. As he struggles to deal with the sudden upheaval of his life, old and new threats begin to take shape. On the words of an ancient seer, the Sisterhood fears Jessica and Paul could lead to the ruination of their order, and thus are doing everything possible to keep them apart.

Sensing a deeper plot and fearing for the life of her son, Jessica must find a way to escape her captivity and warn her family without putting them in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Leto finds life at the Capital even worse than he feared and suddenly finds himself embroiled in the very corruption he’s spent his life fighting against.

If all THAT wasn’t going on, the rebellious organization, Noble Commonwealth, are still striking at the heart of the Empire and becoming an even greater threat. There’s also the Baron Harkonnen to deal with as well, as he continues his secret Spice operations on Arrakis and seeks to strike back at the Atreides. In short, as with any Dune story, there’s a ridiculous amount of things going on!

I’m trying to stick away from spoilers, so I’ll try and keep it about that vague, though most of those aspect happen in the first half of the book. As the story unfolds, we get to see more of how these characters interact and come to be the characters we know and are familiar with in the original novel.

Highs and Lows

For the most part I really enjoyed Lady of Caladan. In fact, by the time I reached the halfway point it was well on its way to being among my favorite Dune books from Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Despite having a bunch of things going on in the story, it manages to maintain a smaller page count (much like Duke of Caladan) and doesn’t feel too bloated.  The pacing felt much tighter, like so much of the fat had been trimmed. With the story setup from the previous novel, Lady was able to get right into the meat of things and it did an excellent job of weaving those plot points together that kept me flipping pages.

That said…some familiar problems began popping up soon after that. In some ways, the first half of the book feels like a direct continuation of the last novel and ties up a handful of those plot points. As such, the second half feels like it’s telling an all new story. There’s a weird breakpoint where new plots are thrown out there (which will presumably be wrapped up in thee next novel) that feel jarring.

The result is the story slowing WAY down as it introduces new elements that must be explained/dealt with. I wish they would have stuck with the stories already being told, as it once again feels like too much is going on. It’s something that has long been the case with their Dune novels.

I get it, with Dune it felt like a million things were going on at once. “Plans within plans” if you will. The concept is built into the DNA of these stories, but too often these newer books have felt like they’ve thrown in miscellaneous plot points simply for the Hell of it. While some can be interesting, too often they rarely add to the larger story going on.

Without any big spoilers here, let me give you an example. At one point, Feyd is gifted a pair of spinehounds from the CHOAM director for…reasons. We have a few chapters in the book jumping back to his training of the vicious creatures and even taking them on some camping/hunting trip. And then they’re gone. Taken away in a manner that does little to give Feyd any actual growth and it happens early enough to have no impact on the larger plot. You could take out all those chapters and never miss a thing…It’s strange.

It’s another factor that throws off the overall pacing, killing the great momentum the start of the book had. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the latter half of the book, and felt the full novel is still one of their better Dune books. I was still engaged in the story and found myself struggling to put it down. Those minor issues, however, held it back from being on the top tier of the franchise despite starting that way.

The Rush Job

About the only other issue with Lady of Caladan is the same fans had with the previous book: the timeline. The entire trilogy is a prequel meant to take place within the YEAR leading up to the events of the original Dune. There are some big events going down in this book, and it’s hard to imagine all of this is happening in this short period of time (especially considering where Jessica ends up) and STILL lead into the original story.

Frankly speaking, I feel this is a minor issue. I come from a lifetime of Star Wars fandom, where discrepancies in timeline/canon are pretty much par for the course. While I worry this trilogy’s events could fly counter to the original characterizations of my beloved favorites, it doesn’t really impact my overall enjoyment. Still, if it’s a type of thing you know bugs you, keep that in mind.

Even though The Lady of Caladan brings to mind some familiar problems, I find myself greatly enjoying this new trilogy. I especially had fun with this one. There’s plenty of action, intrigued, and all those elements you’ve come to expect from the franchise. The middle novel does an excellent job of wrapping up earlier storylines, while introducing some others I’m eager to see payoff when the final book arrives next year.

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Jordan Maison
Editor-in-Chief: Writer and cartoonist who went to college for post-production, he now applies his love of drawing, movie analysis, filmmaking, video games, and martial arts into writing.