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review 2014-09-10 11:49
The Mirador
The Mirador - Sarah Monette

Genre: Adult Fantasy

The Blurb:

The dashing wizard Felix Harrowgate has reclaimed his sanity, magic, and position in society. But even as he returns to his former place in the Mirador-the citadel of power and wizardry-there are many who desire his end. Mildmay the Fox is an ex-assassin, a cat-burglar, and Felix’s half-brother. Tied to Felix by blood and magic, Mildmay goes where Felix goes-even into the Mirador. There, Mildmay finds himself drawn to an alluring spy of the Bastion, a rival school of wizards.

The Bastion desires above all else to bring down the Mirador, and Felix is the key to its destruction. But Mildmay cannot let Felix stand alone, and will fight to save both his brother and his city from certain ruin.

My Thoughts:

 

The Mirador is the third book in Sarah Monette’s the Doctrine of Labyrinths series.

A big theme in this book is repetition and the circularity of history. There’s a set of people (and kind of people)and sequences of events that have a habit of slotting together. The broad plot of the novel is concerned with patterns, at a micro level the sub-plots are made up of dozens of threads of political game play.

 

The multitude of agendas at play thoroughly disperses the sources of conflict across the spectrum of characters. If there is any grand puppeteer at work one could only call it fate’ (or the author), because despite the self-serving motivations many characters are driven by there is still a noticeable pattern that unites the city’s past, present and future. The entire cast is, for the most part unconsciously,  dancing to the same song that has been commanding Mélusine’s inhabitants for years,which reminds me of when Felix could hear the Virtu’s broken melody. The inclusion of Mehitabel (a born actress we met in The Virtu who has now become on of the series’s first person narrators) and the acting company  she works with compliments the themes and feel of this novel very well. The characters, in a difficult to explain way, are pointedly actors in a pre-written plot, both in terms of the way things operate within their world and in the way that they really are fictional characters. I always find books where characters think about their place in the story quite beautifully crafted.

 

The plot in The Mirador feels much more intricate and complicated than it was in the previous installments in the Doctrine of Labyrinths series. Gone are the wide spaces Mildmay and Felix traversed in Mélusine and The Virtu. Now we have the cluttered and grimy Lower City and the labyrinthine and claustrophobic Mirador, made even more closed in by the pull of the obligation d’âme that keeps Mildmay in the city.  It’s an environment Monette has used before but never has she so strictly and rigidly confined us here to the extent she does in this novel. I actually enjoyed the change in atmosphere and I think it helped put a tight focus on the characters, the world Monette has fashioned and the intricacies of the plot.

 

Mildmay and Felix are both hurting a lot. The memory of Malkar still haunts them both. Felix is dogged by guilt. Mildmay is trapped by memories, some that he can’t forget and some that he cannot remember. The brothers really struggle to open up to each other about their individual problems, and when they do they tend to cause each other more pain than solace. There aren’t really any long journeys or external objects to fix as such that they can distract themselves with.The most important thing left to ‘fix’/heal is themselves. and in this regard Mildmay is by far the most proactive. He embarks on a personal journey to solve outstanding mysteries from his past, mysteries that are also tied to the past and future of the city itself. Over the course of this novel Mildmay learns how to have the strength to not just be a passive passenger in a predetermined story. He learns to not just be the knife that is ordered around but iunstead an active protagonist who can rewrite the story. I love Mildmay.

 

Felix has very little part in Mildmay’s journey. He’s far too immersed in his own pain and scared to touch Mildmay’s. In this book Felix is not ready to be healed or to interact with his past the way Mildmay is now brave enough to do. Both men are developing, but at a different pace and in different ways. There was a really great description of Felix and Mildmay’s relationship from Mehitabel which really sums the two men up:

‘The obligation d’âme meant that his [Mildmay's] only allegiance was to Felix, making them a separate kingdom of two, with Felix as king and Mildmay as ministers, army, and populace all combined in one. A stormy little kingdom, I thought, with periodic flare-ups of civil war and a magnificently unstable government. ‘

To finish I want to say something about the Mirador’s other inhabitants, who often shine as brightly as Felix and Milly in my imagination. It was very interesting to see the everyday mechanics of court at work and to get to know Stephen and Shannon better, as well as Gideon and Simon. Shannon has matured since Mélusine and it was great to see him through Mehitabel’s eyes rather than Felix’s so we could get a fuller look at his character beyond their relationship. I grew fond of Shannon. I also grew fond of Shannon’s brother Stephen, our trusty and serious Lord Protector, who gets to be much more than the stone-faced bear failing at elegance people have dismissed him as before. My favourite quote from the whole book comes from a conversation between Stephen and Mehitabel about Felix:

“Good. I won’t have to worry about him brooding on the battlements, then.”

“Brooding on the battlements?”

“His favourite pastime. I prefer it to pitching tantrums in the Hall of the Chimeras-which he has also done a time or two.”

I loved watching characters Monette had only scratched the surface with in previous volumes flower in this installment, especially since this is the last time we meet many of them. The end of this novel is the end of a lot of things in Felix and Milly-Fox’s life. The Virtu is still my favourite book in the series so far but The Mirador is nevertheless a beautiful book in its own way and one that touches me more and more on reflection.

 

The Mirador is the penultimate book in the Doctrine of Labyrinths series. I’m quite emotional at the idea of it all coming to an end, but I will save discussing that for my final Doctrine of Labyrinths review.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Ren x

'But you don't tell people things. Only

 

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review 2014-09-03 10:41
The Virtu
The Virtu - Sarah Monette

Genre: Adult Fantasy

 

The Blurb:

Felix Harrowgate was a dashing and powerful wizard until his former master wrenched Felix’s magic from him and used it to shatter the Virtu—the orb that is the keystone for the protection and magic of the wizards of the city. Felix has painfully clawed his way back to sanity, and his only chance to reclaim the life he once knew is to repair the seemingly irreparable—to restore the Virtu.

Mildmay the Fox was an assassin and a cat-burglar—until a curse caught up with him and his life changed forever. Haunted by death, his leg damaged by the curse that should have killed him, he does not know what awaits him in Mélusine, but for good or ill, his fate is tied to Felix’s, by blood…and by magic.

On their journey, Felix and Mildmay will encounter friends and enemies old and new, vengeful spirits and ancient goddesses. They will uncover secrets better left buried. But nothing can prepare them for what awaits their return: Felix’s former master, the cruel and decadent wizard Malker Gennadion…

My Thoughts:

 

Fate, magic, labyrinths: Felix and Mildmay are back and ready to return home to deal with some unfinished business. The Virtu is the second book in Sarah Monette’s The Doctrine of Labyrinths series. When we last saw them Felix and Mildmay had finally made physical contact with the learned (if a bit stuck-up on occasion) inhabitants of the Gardens of Nephele who then manage to heal Felix’s mind. Mildmay, meanwhile, remains crippled and looked down on by the Troians. But of course two things were broken in Mélusine: Felix and the Virtu. Mélusine saw Felix fixed, The Virtu is about trying to fix the remaining item.

 

When we meet the brothers again in The Virtu their relationship remains fractious despite them at least talking to each other from time to time. In many ways they hardly know each other at all but they are all each other have. A significant portion of The Virtu is spent travelling as Felix and Mildmay head for home. The travels in this book contrast against the travels seen in Mélusine, despite both journeys covering much the same distance and places. The biggest difference is that Felix this time is his overtly charming and sadistic self the whole way through.

 

The brotherly dynamic between Felix and Mildmay has several layers of depth and Monette has a play with all of them on their trip home. There is the dynamic of older brother romantically inclined towards little brother, older brother who sometimes forgets his younger brother is intelligent, and both brothers reminding each other of a past they would rather forget. There is some beautiful symmetry in Felix and Mildmay’s relationship.  Milly-Fox can see Malkar, Felix’s old master, in Felix’s habits and Felix can see Milly-Fox’s habits in Madame Kolkhis, Milly’s former Keeper. Whatever monsters people may accuse Felix and Milly of being I would argue they are merely what they were made to be by their masters. The biggest thing I love about the relationship between the brothers is that no matter how complicated things get between them they still find comfort in each other. In Mélusine they were an unlikely pair but here we see more than ever how deeply chained they are too each other.

 

I still love Mildmay the most. He’s a very skilled individual and a master-storyteller. I’m team Milly-Fox all the way. Even Felix is team Milly-Fox, he just has a weird way of showing it. I have a strong fondness for Felix. It’s quite interesting to get a fuller taste of who Felix really is now the madness is gone. He’s very charismatic, intelligent, powerful and sexual. He likes attention and the idea of being desired.  Milly describes Felix’s attitude best when he tells him “it’s like you got to have everybody’s heart, and if they don’t give it, you rip it out and watch it bleed.”

 

Along with meeting Milly and Felix again some more old friends fromMélusine make an appearance. But there are also new characters, the biggest of which is probably Mehitabel. I really appreciated how Mehitabel doesn’t make fun of Mildmay, which makes her the balance to Felix’s barbed conversations. She tries to be a proper friend towards Mildmay and notices the subtle changes that occur between Felix and Mildmay on the way home in ways others don’t. Mildmay definitely needed a friend like her that worries about him and doesn’t want to see him trod on by other people. She respects Mildmay more than he respects himself. Mehitabel is a new favourite of mine. She’s a good person with awesome skills and she’s not afraid to stand on an even footing with strong characters like Felix.

 

The characters are what make Monette’s Doctrine of Labyrinths series shine but credit should also be given to the situations Monette places her unlikely heroes into. There are at least two strong episodes where Monette plays with trope storylines and twists them to great effect. At times side characters seem to try to forcefully form the plot around them as they try and change the novel they inhabit into something more straight-laced in terms of typical plot lines and characters.  These little episodes were the parts that made me think ‘this book is special’. The ending, however, was the best bit of the whole book because it played out the foretold finale of the string of events that began so violently in Mélusine in a very satisfactory way. Well, there was a lot of pain and death involved but all in all it was a fitting tying up of the story.

 

Another aspect of the book that makes it brilliant is the magic system. Since Mélusine Monette has been crafting a world where there are several groups of wizards who follow different theories of magic in a very scholarly way. I loved reading about these theories as Felix inevitably tries to get a grasp on each new concept of magic he comes across. Felix truly is an extraordinary wizard. We saw his raw power break the Virtu in Mélusine but in this book we get a real insight into the quickness of his mind and the depths of his power.

 

Overall The Virtu made me want to laugh and it made me want to cry. I love it to pieces and will most definitely be rereading it for years to come. The one complaint I have is about the lack of maps. The whole series could do with having a map printed in the front. Just a thought if a publisher wishes to pick it up these books for a reprint.

 

Good. I won't have to worry about him (2)

Source: fearlessfacade.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/book-review-the-virtu-by-sarah-monette
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review 2014-08-26 13:08
Mélusine by Sarah Monette
Melusine - Sarah Monette

The Blurb:

Mélusine — a city of secrets and lies, pleasure and pain, magic and corruption — and destinies lost and found.

Felix Harrowgate is a dashing, highly respected wizard. But his aristocratic peers don’t know his dark past — how his abusive former master enslaved him, body and soul, and trained him to pass as a nobleman. Within the walls of the Mirador — Melusine’s citadel of power and wizardry — Felix believed he was safe. He was wrong. Now, the horrors of his previous life have found him and threaten to destroy all he has since become.

Mildmay the Fox is used to being hunted. Raised as a kept-thief and trained as an assassin, he escaped his Keeper long ago and lives on his own as a cat burglar. But now he has been caught by a mysterious foreign wizard using a powerful calling charm. And yet the wizard was looking not for Mildmay — but for Felix Harrowgate.

Thrown together by fate, the broken wizard Felix and the wanted killer Mildmay journey far from Melusine through lands thick with strange magics and terrible demons of darkness. But it is the shocking secret from their pasts, linking them inexorably together, that will either save them, or destroy them.

My Thoughts:

Mélusine, Mélusine, Mélusine. What to say about Mélusine? Well, first of all, Mélusine is the first book in a series called The Doctrine of Labyrinths. I started reading the book a while ago but took a while to get captured by it. I’d read in other reviews about how the story comes on fire when Mildmay and Felix meet but that doesn’t happen until over half way through. I had to get rid of this urge to see them together to better appreciate their individual stories in the first half of the novel.  I did read the first half rather slowly but after I hit the 59% mark I got more interested and I found myself tearing through the pages. I even drew a picture of one of my favourite sections, that’s how into the story I got.

 

The narrative is split between Felix and Mildmay’s first person points of view. They use language in different ways so there can be no mistaking whose side of the story your reading at any given time. Felix is a wizard at court and he is rather strict about grammar. Mildmay, in contrast, is a common thief who has a much rawer dialect. Language becomes particularly important when you’re trying to read Felix’s character and state of mind as the book goes on because he has unwanted ties to Mildmay’s dialect that peak through in his speech occasionally.

 

For the vast majority of the book Felix is a mentally, emotionally and magically broken person who is being used as a scapegoat for a massive crime committed by a wizard called Malkar. Malkar, once Felix’s master, basically harnesses Felix’s extraordinary magical powers to break the Virtu. The Virtu is a very important piece of the Mirador’s power as it maintains the status quo in magical terms by holding up seals, uniting the wizards that inhabit the Mirador, and so forth. Without the Virtu order starts to break down. The process Malkar uses to harness Felix’s power involves raping him. It totally destroys Felix’s mind and this happens very early on. We only get a snapshot of who sane-Felix is before his mind is torn open. You barely get the chance to know him or develop any kind of attachment before this happens so it kind of comes as a shock. As a result of his madness Felix sees  colours around people that relate to their emotions and he sees animal heads where he should see people.  The reader gains quite a raw look into Felix’s fractured mental state because of Monette’s use of first person narration. The impact Felix’s madness has on his perception of the world is very interesting.

 

On the otherhand we have Mildmay. Mildmay, or Milly-Fox as I prefer to call him, is a cat burglar (and ex-assassin…) who lives on the periphery of the magical drama surrounding Felix. But he is gradually pulled closer and closer to the wizard. He has a coarse personality due to the very rough upbringing he experienced at the hands of a thief-keeper. Milly has a very distinct way of talking.  He swears a lot, for one thing. Where his narration really shines is in the very expressive and engaging way he tells his story, which is a contrast to the way he closes himself off from other characters. Mildmay’s narrative was my favourite part. I really grew to care for him a lot. Well, actually that is an understatement. A look at my reading updates on booklikes might give you a sample of the intensity of my feelings towards Mildmay. He is now one of my favourite literary characters ever. When we first meet Milly he has broken free of his keeper. He works his own jobs and gets on with his life in the Lower City, from falling in love to meeting up with good friends to catch up on gossip, but Felix’s story-line tears his familiar world apart.

T

he relationship Felix and Mildmay develop is another key part of what I love about this book. A wizard that deals in divination through cards feels that they are destined to meet and it does indeed come to pass. What touches me about the relationship Milly-Fox and Felix develop is that, despite being broken when they first meet, Felix saves Mildmay from a torturous curse and in return Mildmay immediately decides to stand-by Felix, no matter what. To say more would be to ruin the story but I hope to touch on this aspect of the story again in my review of The Virtu (the sequel).

 

Half-way through Mélusine gripped me by the shoulders and dragged me into its story and I’m still not free. I have embarked on a start to finish read through of the whole series and I’m now on book three. I’m very attached to the characters and emotionally invested in their story, especially Mildmay’s. I picked up this book because The Goblin Emperor is my top book in the world right now so I just had to search for other books by Katherine Addison. I found out Addison was a pen name for Sarah Monette, then I found Mélusine and read about the Doctrine of Labyrinths series. The rest is history.

 

Some advice: if you start reading this and enjoy it make sure you get a hold of the second book, The Virtu, as quickly as possible because the story the two make together is more immersive than the ones they tell individually.  Mélusine and The Virtu are , for me, one solid story split between two volumes. In some way I actually like The Virtu better thanMélusine because I got more into the magic used in this world but also because it concludes a big chunk of the overall story that begins in Mélusine. That’s not to say Mélusine doesn’t have any resolution in its self,  but the two books are two distinct halves of the same journey,  the journey ‘there’ and the journey home. But I’ll talk a lot more about The Virtu in a separate review. In summary: I <3 both books as a pair.

3-4 (1)

Note: I dropped it down one quarter from the full five stars only because I think I need to rate The Virtu higher.

Source: fearlessfacade.wordpress.com/2014/08/24/book-review-melusine-by-sarah-monette
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