08/26/2005 Entry: "MELUSINE by Sarah Monette -- flawed but promising (Suzanne)"
In a somewhat Renaissance-like time, Melusine is a city with a citadel called Mirador where courtiers and wizards hang out and a 'wrong side of the tracks' full of thieves, prostitutes and other denizens of the darkness. Felix Harrowgate is a very strong, uniquely beautiful young wizard who harbors a secret, sordid past. Mildmay the Fox is a former kept thief and assassin who has escaped his keeper to become a cat burglar.
Felix's past catches up with him, destroying his standing in Mirador, his relationship with the noble young lord who is his lover and breaking his mind. When Mirador is destroyed and he meets Mildmay, they are both shocked by their eerie resemblance. They begin a journey to find their land of origin - the only place Felix can be healed - with Mildmay as caretaker of an increasingly ill Felix. (There were echoes of Lynn Flewelling's LUCK IN THE SHADOWS in this book.)
Monette is an author to watch. MELUSINE is her first novel, but the bio on the cover indicates she won an award for a short story. She is excellent at evoking place and mood, but there are some problems that marred the read for me. The book is written in first person - a chapter from Felix's point of view, then a chapter from Mildmay's - a conceit I liked. What jarred is that Mildmay's voice is 21st century trailer trash, and this just didn't work (for me) in her old-world setting. The author may have considered this amusing, but I found it exceedingly distracting. My other criticism is that the author occasionally goes a little overboard with those flourishes that don't advance the narrative but just show she's clever with a turn of phrase.
Once Felix and Mildmay got on the road, the narrative picked up. I enjoyed it through the reasonably satisfying conclusion, but the author left so many loose ends that it seems sure there must be a sequel in the works. There is no HEA romance, but there is sexual tension between Felix and Mildmay. And since they believe they are half-brothers, this looks like a promising plot thickener for a sequel. I'm interested in following this journey into a sequel with the full expectation that the talented Monette is going to advance in skill. --Suzanne
Replies: 3 Comments
I absolutely loved Melusine. I found Mildmay and Felix fascinating characters, and I loved the focus on their relationship. Mildmay certainly had a street trash voice, but not trailer trash, surely? I found his voice a fresh use of language – and as he is highly intelligent, the richness it had didn't jar. I'm not sure about the sexual tension. There was definately tension but was it sexual? I'm reserving judgement until the sequel. And yes, there is a sequel. The Virtu is due July 06, I think.
Posted by Becca @ 08/26/2005 03:42 AM ET
I think I liked the book about as much as Suzanne, although for different reasons. I would have appreciated a bit more of a lead-up to Felix's world. It was destroyed the moment we met him, so we never really got to meet and appreciate the debonair, caustic, super-intelligent man who's described now and then. And I found the change in POV's jarring. It bugged me more than I expected. Mildmay's street cant didn't really bother me, but his double negatives were very distracting. The author had me pretty convinced by the end that they were brothers, and I enjoyed the positive relationship that was developing. If something sexual is on its way - and I agree that there were hints - that's very bad. Still, I don't want to come across as too negative. It was a good book, and I literally couldn't put it down while Felix was a prisoner. Really gripping.
Posted by Jill @ 08/26/2005 11:59 PM ET
I've begun reading the book today based on all these views. So far, it's quite a page-turner (so what am I doing taking a break to write comments, right?)
I checked Monette's site, Becca, to get a confirmation on THE VIRTU so I can add it to the forthcoming books list and found another item of interest: "In February 2006, The Queen in Winter will be published, an anthology of four romance/fantasy cross-genre novellas by Lynn Kurland, Sharon Shinn, Claire Delacroix, and me. My story, "A Gift of Wings," takes place in the same world as Mélusine and The Virtu, though it is a standalone story--no overlap with the novels."
This must be along the lines of last year's TO WEAVE A WEB OF MAGIC, which had three authors in common with THE QUEEN IN WINTER and was pretty good. And, funny coincidence, Claire Delacroix's anthology contribution last year was the first time I'd been exposed to the Melusine myth in any significant way.
Speaking of which, I'm already wondering if I'd be getting more out of MELUSINE the novel if I knew more Roman (and whatever other) history. Do any of you have thoughts on the world in which this story is set?
Posted by Preeti @ 08/27/2005 05:16 PM ET