Reviewed by: K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite – 5 Star Review
Prospero’s Staff is a work of fantasy fiction penned in the literary style by author David Ackley. Written for adult audiences due to some use of explicit language, this fascinating novel takes Shakespeare as its central theme and dramatic impetus, but all in the life of a modern writer named Martin Ropers. After Prospero’s enchanted staff from The Tempest appears to Martin on a trip to Greece, his life takes on a wild twisting and turning path that seems to be heading straight for disaster. All Martin wants is one more literary success, but it seems that the magical staff and its effects have other plans for him now.
Author David Ackley has crafted a totally unique and unexpected work of delightful fantasy drama. As a huge Shakespeare fan myself, I was absolutely delighted to find such in-depth references and mentions of the Bard throughout the novel, which was most apt and led to some very amusing predictions and conclusions as the plot twisted on. I liked Martin as a lead protagonist very much, playing an everyman role as life begins to happen to him in unexpected ways. There are some fascinating allegorical moments, but also genuine pain and difficulty where illness is concerned, which I felt was really well described and empathetic. The prose gives a close narration of Martin’s experiences, good and bad, which brings readers right into his head. Overall, I would certainly recommend Prospero’s Staff for magical realism and fantasy fans seeking a sophisticated drama.
Review by Entrada Publishing:
Author David Ackley answers the question of what happened to Prospero’s famous staff in his engaging fantasy fiction novel. Prospero’s Staff is a unique story that stands out in the crowded fantasy genre.
Readers familiar with Shakespeare’s famous play The Tempest will enjoy the references to it throughout the book. It also follows the Bard’s format for drama leaving readers constantly wondering what will happen next.
Set in modern times, Prospero’s Staff follows struggling writer Martin Ropers. His first novel was a huge success, but the words aren’t flowing for his next book. He’s struggling to meet deadlines and write something his editor will accept, but life seems to have other plans for him.
As Martin is trying to recreate the success he had with his first novel, written in the 70s, Prospero’s staff keeps appearing in him in visions. Why is the staff showing itself now after being broken in half and buried at the end of The Tempest? The story’s pace picks up when, back on the Greek island that sparked his first novel, an earthquake hits.
Suddenly Martin Ropers has discovered both halves of the staff, put it back together, and has fallen into a coma. His brain injury adds another twist to the plot, along with his editor canceling their agreement. The drama isn’t finished, even when Martin is back home in Montana. A wildfire has suddenly appeared seemingly out of nowhere, and Martin’s neighbors are forced to find shelter at his home.
The staff plays a central role in David Ackley’s story and fans of the Bard will appreciate all of the references. While Prospero’s Staff is fantasy fiction, it does have comedic moments, often when Shakespeare is referenced. It can lead readers to predict certain outcomes in the storyline that never come true due to the next plot twist. “Again, he was part of the dusky landscape on what he somehow knew to be a small island, and he found himself staring out at the placid surface of what now seemed to be a sickly green sea. He was at the water’s edge and found that he was holding a crudely carved staff which he tapped several times on the compacted sand.”
Ackley does a masterful job of helping readers understand Martin’s two worlds. One in reality and the other in his head. The author also captures the pain Martin feels when his illness is diagnosed. His writing gives depth and feeling to his characters, allowing readers to feel like they know Martin, his family, and neighbors.
Anyone looking for a fun escape into fantasy will find Prospero’s Staff an entertaining story. It does take a couple of chapters for the adventure to start, but the background in the book’s beginning is an important element of the story. Ackley has also included a summary of The Tempest for those not familiar with Shakespeare’s famous play.