thoughts on ‘mélusine’

It’s that time of the month again. *snort* No, not that time. Instead it’s time for…

Kris’ New Year’s Readolution 3!

To try a different author and/or genre once a month.

When you take into account the books I’ve reviewed for Wave, I’ve actually met my readolution for March by discussing Rick R Reed’s
A Face Without A Heart and Sean Kennedy’s Tigers and Devils. However, since I’m so awesome – and modest 😉 – I decided I’d make the challenge specific to my blog… for this month anyway. *g*

Okay, I might be cheating a little because I have already read a book this author co-wrote and talked about it here, but it’s my first from her proper and, well, I’ve been busy dammit.

Mélusine by Sarah Monette





The Blurb:

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

A dashing and highly respected wizard, Felix Harrowgate thought he had eluded his dark past. Within the walls of the Mirador—Mélusine’s citadel of power and magic—Felix believed he was free of his abusive former master, a wizard who had enslaved him, body and soul, and trained him to pass as a nobleman. He was wrong.

Raised as a kept-thief and trained as an assassin, Mildmay the Fox is used to being hunted. Having slipped his Keeper long ago, he survives as a cat burglar—until he’s caught by a mysterious magician using a powerful calling charm. And yet the magician was looking not for Mildmay—but for Felix Harrowgate…

Bound by fate, the broken wizard Felix and the wanted killer Mildmay will journey far from Mélusine through lands thick with strange magics and terrible demons of darkness—but it is the secret from their pasts that will either save them or destroy them…

My thoughts:

I admit it. I am completely intimidated by the idea of reviewing fantasy novels like this. (Again) I’m going to refer to a couple of other sites –
Ana and Thea’s review at Fantasy Cafe and Orannia’s at her blog, Walkabout – so those interested can see what better ladies than I thought of the book.

Having said that, two things which struck me the most about Mélusine were the world-building and the characterisation.

Like A Companion to Wolves, the world the author has created is both unique and thorough. I didn’t find it overwhelming, which can often happen in a first-time novel. Instead the construction was just enough to provide the context for the past and current lives of the main characters, to progress the plot and to also lay the ground work for future books in the series.

The characterisation was without doubt very good. This was assisted by the format of the book; being in the first person POV with alternate sections done from the perspectives of Mildmay and Felix. This is not style of which I am a fan and it has a tendency to make me feel schizofictiony. However, I found my rhythm and was caught up by the author’s skill and the development of the protags. About them…

I seem to have anti-heroes on the brain and Mildmay and Felix fit the roles nicely. With one being an impostor and former prostitute and the other a thief and assassin, the two men are not nice at all. Mildmay was, I thought, the more likeable and engaging of the two whereas Felix… what to say?? Definitely not a sympathetic character, yet he was strangely tragic. Broken by his master, he is thrown into insanity. The scenes in the book that deal with this are very evocative; colourful, dramatic, terrifying and full of imagery.

It came as a total surprise to discover yet another fantasy character (Felix) who is gay. The approach to homosexuality reminded me in many ways of that taken in The Steel Remains (discussed here), which is not romantic or necessarily relationship driven, but used to give the reader further insight into the protag. It was convincing.

Last, but by no means least, Mélusine is the dark fantasy genre at its finest. Complex themes, ambiguous characters, and a richly crafted – albeit shadowy and dangerous – world. I love this genre. Think The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop and you will be on the right track.

My recommendation:

If you like dark fantasy and anti-heroes, I think you will definitely enjoy Mélusine. The next book in this series, The Virtu, is already on my tbb list.

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About Kris

Reads, rants, randoms & R+s. You've been warned. BTW, don't follow me if you're a GLBTQQphobic wanker. It won't end well. For you.
This entry was posted in fantasy, m/f, m/m, My 2009 Readolution 3, sarah monette. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to thoughts on ‘mélusine’

  1. Tracy says:

    Wow! Great review. I was thinking it might not be a book that would interest me but then you compare it to the BJT by Bishop, which I loved, and I’m definitely intrigued. hmmm…one to keep on the list.

  2. Kris says:

    Thanks Tracy.I liked this muchly, although I admit I wasn’t too sure I would to begin with. The author has a very evocative way of writing that really drew me in. Her world is definitely intriguing.

  3. orannia says:

    Great review Kris (and I’ve very honoured you mentioned my review – thank you 🙂 I know a lot of people preferred Mildmay, but I found myself drawn to the tragic Felix…he’s just so…multi-faceted 🙂 The author has a very evocative way of writing that really drew me in.*nods* Definitely. I just loved this book and I have the second – The Virtu – on its way to my local library as we speak!

  4. orannia says:

    Ohh, and I’m off to read the review of Steel Remains as you have got me intrigued 🙂

  5. Kris says:

    Your review was really great, Orannia. Between you, Ana and Thea, you helped me get my own thoughts together about how I felt about different aspects of the book. So thanks! :)Monette’s prose is just full of imagery. It makes for gorgeous reading, doesn’t it? Lucky you re: The Virtu. I’m going to save my pennies and order it from my fave sci fi/fantasy store in Sydney. I have no willpower. *g*As to The Steel Remains… best anti-hero I’ve read in a long time. A bloody good book too, and another first in a series.

  6. Jenre says:

    So…was this a m/m book? Or was it just that one of the characters was gay?

  7. Tam says:

    Despite the fact that I spend most of my time watching stuff on the Space channel (Sci Fi) and prefer fantasy/sci fi movies, I just can’t get into fantasy books generally. Perhaps I’m too impatient to read all the world building. Great review though and good for you for keeping to your resolutions.

  8. Kris says:

    Hi JenIt’s not packaged as m/m, but then again fantasy ‘proper’ (if there is such a thing) doesn’t really drill down to that kind of categorisation. That’s one of the reasons why I’m always a bit surprised when I come across it. With one of the main characters being gay, I would think it does qualify. It’s also het too.

  9. Kris says:

    It is true, Tam. I am awesome sticking to my readolutions.Sometimes world-building can be overwhelming and, well, boring as bat poo so I undertsnad your hesitation. You liked the M L Rhodes series, though didn’t you??

  10. Jenre says:

    I can’t believe you are replying to blog posts before 8am on a Saturday morning! That’s dedication for you. 🙂

  11. Kris says:

    Jen, see above comment to Tam. I’m awesome.

  12. Tam says:

    Oh hell yeah, loved those books. But I read the Golden Compass in the fall because Geek-boy Craig and the guys on the blog were raving and thank god I was on a plane and had nothing else because the first half bored me to tears. Way too much set-up. I just didn’t care and it didn’t matter to the rest of the story (I didn’t read books 2 and 3 so maybe later) but I shouldn’t have to be bored for 1/2 a book to make a sequel more interesting later. Its not economics class, its entertainment. Okay, rant done. LOL But I had no problems with ML’s books, but then she didn’t spent 150 pages on the back-story alone so I would understand what a draegan (sp?) was. I was able to figure it out as it went along which is as it should be. IMHO

  13. orannia says:

    Thank you :)A copy of The Virty is waiting for me to pick up at my local library (withouth the library to indulge my reading habit…ummmm….addiction 🙂 I would be in such trouble! I do think I might buy these though.Oh Kris, if you want reasonably priced books, with no postage try GoodBooksNZ 🙂 They ship anywhere (because the books come from the UK and the US) and all profits go to Oxfam. Oh, and the books are sold at cost!

  14. Kris says:

    Rant me no rants, Tam. I’m with you on this one. LOL.There is another m/m fantasy series available, which is a bit different but I really enjoyed it. Does have a bit of het in it though, but it kind of disappears after the first book. I’ll taste it for you to see if you would be interested.

  15. Kris says:

    Thanks for the heads up re: GoodBooksNZ, Orannia. I’m a fan of Oxfam so will be off to check this store out asap. I tend to buy from Galaxy, which I find not too bad price wise plus their range makes me weep with joy. Buying books from stores in Perth is just ridiculous and usually results in me raving on the blog. 🙂

  16. Sean Kennedy says:

    Kris and Tam, another good ‘charity’ company I use is BetterworldBooks – they only charge $3.98 for global shipping and I’ve picked up a lot of good older hardbacks very cheaply.And Kris, a great online bookstore is The Book Depository. Free global shipping, and the books are way cheaper than they are here in Oz. I pimp them out to anybody sick of paying Oz prices for books.http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/http://www.betterworldbooks.com/

  17. Kris says:

    I don’t know whether to thank you, Sean, or send you evil thoughts. Dammit.*off to check out my stores*

  18. K. Z. Snow says:

    Monette’s a wonderful writer. I’m not often impressed by prose style, but hers does grab me. I’ve only thus far read the chapter clusters (sounds vaguely dirty, doesn’t it?) she has posted on her website, but I’ve been so flippin’ impressed by those that I’m seriously considering getting my hands on the entire books. You’ve only made matters worse, Kris!The only thing preventing me, aside from time, is my aversion to the current crop of fantasy/UF heroines. I really couldn’t bear to read about any more tough-as-nails, kickass, “anything you can do, I can do better” females. I think LKH and her loathsome Anita Blake have completely destroyed my tolerance for that kind of character. I’m rather burned out on het hook-ups, too, which all seem to have a SOS quality no matter what the context.Do you think, based on your exposure to SM’s books, that these elements are integral to the plot(s)? (God, I hope not!)

  19. Kris says:

    Does “hell no” answer your question, K Z? LOL.No UF type heroines are anywhere in sight in this particular series or heroines at all as yet. Her focus in this, and in her A Companion to Wolves, has been on strong but flawed male protags. I know this will continue into Book 2 at the very least.Re: the het hook up. I don’t think there is any chance in hell. This author has a habit of challenging perceptions of ‘traditional’ relationships and her approach to sexuality and sexual behaviour is by no means as easy as a hook up. It’s very good stuff.

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