Hag-Seed Book Review

By: Margaret Atwood


301 pages

When Felix is deposed as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his devious assistant and longtime enemy, his production of The Tempest is canceled and he is heartbroken. Reduced to a life of exile in rural southern Ontario—accompanied only by his fantasy daughter, Miranda, who died twelve years ago—Felix devises a plan for retribution.

Eventually he takes a job teaching Literacy Through Theatre to the prisoners at the nearby Burgess Correctional Institution, and is making a modest success of it when an auspicious star places his enemies within his reach. With the help of their own interpretations, digital effects, and the talents of a professional actress and choreographer, the Burgess Correctional Players prepare to video their Tempest. Not surprisingly, they view Caliban as the character with whom they have the most in common. However, Felix has another twist in mind, and his enemies are about to find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever. But how will Felix deal with his invisible Miranda’s decision to take a part in the play?

Completion: The beginning contains necessary set-up that isn’t exactly a gem by itself. Felix, much like Prospero in the play The Tempest, is a much more interesting character surrounded by the rest of the cast; thus, the beginning where Felix is alone can be a small hurtle to get past; however, beyond this small hurtle the book is a delight to read.

Writing/Style: The writing style is diverse and fluid as it transitions from Felix’s narration to the more vernacular dialogue of the inmates to rap sequences to parts of the play. All of these elements are woven into the story well and allow a greater whole to emerge.

Characters: The inmates are what really make this book come to life. Through them, Felix becomes the endearing Prospero and Anne-Marie really gets to shine as Miranda. Furthermore, this story probably connects with me a little bit more because the inmates reminded me a lot of the kids I deal with at work.

Plot/Pacing: The plot, while inspired by The Tempest, stands on its own. You do not need to have read The Tempest before reading this book; however, I would at least read the summary of the play provided in the back of the book.

World-building/Atmosphere: While I have never been to a prison, I do work in a juvenile detention facility and as such, the behavior of the inmates rang true to me. Certain elements for the climax require some suspension of disbelief, but it is such a fun story that I didn’t have any problems with that.

Sub-genres (Romance, Humor, Mystery, etc.): This book is not a comedy in the modern sense but does embody the fun and humor of the play it is inspired by. I was happily surprised to find how heartfelt this story was by the end.


FINAL VERDICT: If you are a fan of The Tempest, Hag-Seed is a natural choice. If you have not read The Tempest but want a fun, heartfelt read, this story is for you.


*I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.