Friday, February 15, 2013

Mélusine, by Sarah Monette

The fantasy novel Mélusine, by Sarah Monette, is the first in the Doctrine of Labyrinths series. First off, for those familiar with the French myth of Mélusine, be aware that this story has nothing to do with mermaids. Luckily I didn't remember that the mermaid in the myth was named Mélusine, or I might have been disappointed. I've always liked mermaids.

Anyway, this story (which fits into the GLBT fantasy genre, by the way) is about two men who live in a city called Mélusine. One, a mage and a member of the royal court, is named Felix. The other, a cat burglar and sometimes thug, is named Mildmay. Felix and Mildmay don't know each other, and for most of the novel, pursue different stories. My biggest beef with this novel is that it switches from Felix to Mildmary's first person accounts, sometimes within the same page. I think I understand why Monette chose to do this (she wanted their stories to keep up with each other in the course of time passing), but it still irritated me all the way to the end. I would get engrossed with one story, and then be jolted into the other. Just about every book I've ever read that does this annoys me. However, I can see the appeal of telling a story from more than one perspective, particularly in this case. I won't say more about that so as not to spoil things.

I liked both Felix and Mildmay, and became more interested in each of them at different times. Mildmay's voice, in particular, really grew on me. I became very attached to both of them, and by the end of the book, I didn't want the story to end. This sort of thing doesn't happen all that often to me; I'll enjoy a book just fine, but also enjoy the ending, and be done with it. Not so with Mélusine. I'm really happy I get to read more books in the series, otherwise I'd miss these characters, especially Mildmay.


The irony is that through most of the novel, I liked Felix more, and more often than not, I wanted to know what was going on with him much more than Mildmay. I enjoyed Mildmay's voice and I really liked it when Mildmay told stories--long before he said so, I knew Mildmay loved story-telling, you could read it in the way he would dig in to a story and deliver it with such relish. Also, at the start, I had a hard time with Felix's experiences, since saying Felix was a punching bag is like saying Hurricane Katrina damaged some houses. And it just kept going and going, I was like, jeez, let's give the guy a break already, okay? Eventually Felix loses his mind, with full-on hallucinations and such, and actually, that's when I really started to like him. And I have to say, sane Felix (who we only meet at the end) is not nearly as likeable as crazy Felix. I'm a bit concerned I won't much care for sane Felix in the next books. Time will tell, I suppose.
Click the image above to order.

Anyway, I highly recommend this book. It is very well-written, meaning the phrasing, etc., is so good I felt like my writing was improving as I read it.

Oh, and just a note on the cover. I really don't like it. To me, it says "beefcake," and not much else, despite the attempt to represent Felix's mage tattoos. And it's so very inappropriate to associate beefcake to this novel. Perhaps Felix was buff and all before his misfortunes hit, but very quickly Monette describes him as emaciated, his hair shorn, etc.--I visualized concentration camp victims.

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