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Melusine by Sarah Monette
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Melusine (edition 2006)

by Sarah Monette

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1,142577,160 (4.02)96
Member:Jenson_AKA_DL
Title:Melusine
Authors:Sarah Monette
Info:Ace (2006), Mass Market Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fantasy, wizards, thieves, epic quest, LT author, owned

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Mélusine by Sarah Monette

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English (56)  German (1)  English (57)
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Unfortunately, while the story sounded really good on the back, I found the wording and vernacular so confusing I couldn't get past the first chapter. Maybe if there had been something in the back of the book to help with all the unfamiliar slang I might have continued, but as it was I had so much trouble understanding what was going on and keeping it straight while trying to understand the wording I just gave up. Sorry! ( )
  mariahsidhe | May 12, 2016 |
Felix Harrogate trained for years to masquerade as a noble and be part of the wizarding elite of Melusine. But his sordid past is revealed and he crawls back to his old master--who uses him in a ritual to destroy the protective magic of the Melusine. Believed to be a traitor, with his mind broken from the ritual, Felix's only ally is his criminal half-brother Mildmay. Together, they search for a cure for Felix's madness. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
The first half of the book is flawless, but the second half is really a different story altogether, and it's really not quite as good. Still, I'll definitely be following Monette! (Melusine was her first book; she's already published two sequels, which I'm on the lookout for.)

Set in the dark-fantasy city of Melusine, which of course is full of decadence, crime, romance, wealth & glamour and dire poverty - not to mention magic and danger - the main character is Mildmay, a young, scarred, dangerous but decent-at-heart thief. Hired by an out-of-his-league courtesan to steal some jewels that she believes are rightfully hers, Mildmay of course develops a fascination with the beautiful but not-so-streetwise woman.
The first half of the book is a just gorgeous, original tense story that spirals deftly into tragedy... just wonderful.

The second part of the book deals more with Mildmay's encounters with a wizard, Felix, who is the victim of a plot to make him the scapegoat for intrigue at high levels, and is subject to a spell that makes him appear insane. His physical resemblance to Mildmay is remarkable, and leads the two to a connection that their different social classes render unlikely... it's also a good (well-better-than-average) story, but doesn't have the emotional impact of the first part of the book, and when the action leaves Monette's beautifully-realized city, the aesthetics falter a bit, entering a more typical-fantasy realm.

The only really unfortunate thing about this book is the cover (featuring a cheesy, hunky topless tattooed guy) - it's so embarrassingly bad that I took off the dust jacket to read it - and good luck suggesting the novel to a guy!
( )
1 vote AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Full confession: Binge Read in Progress. Did I like [Melusine]? Is it a good book? Irrelevant, it turns out, since I couldn't stop reading it, despite a number of aspects I normally dislike in a fantasy, that I DID dislike even while I was reading on! I'm generally not keen on first person narratives, especially of the chirpy cheery sort, so that even when someone is torturing or raping someone and every other sentence has some form of the f-bomb in it, the narrative bounces onward gaily. There is a creepy aspect to all described scenes of violence in all fiction and it's a fine line between what is justifiable and what is opportunistic and voyeuristic. Monette does go over the line, but two things kept me going, the two protagonists, Felix and Mildmay, are not flat characters, they grabbed hold of me early on and didn't let go. This is the "wizards are seriously nasty customers unless severely constrained" variety of fantasy -- which again, normally, I am not wildly keen on either, but here, the plot and the momentum of it concern this fact in a way I needed to know where it was going. Monette does a bang-up job at plunging the reader into a world at first bewildering but never so bewildering that you give up trying to figure it out. The plot? A great "device" (for lack of a better word) that performed just this function is destroyed by one of those bad wizards, who is using one of our protagonists: Felix. The rest of the novel in this series then follows what happens after this device, the Virtu, as it is called, is broken and chaos ensues in the Mirador, the Palace of the Wizards in the city of Melusine. You know pretty much from the get-go there is some connection between Felix and Mildmay, who is an ordinary non-wizard fellow and a cat-thief, and that they will end up together and that is one of the storylines that dangled the carrot. There was also a bit too much of people being shockingly bone-headed in order to drag out the story. In this case though, people remain in terrible pain and misery and loneliness due to various kinds of arrogance and neglect and sometimes it was not believable, even though, yeah, I kept on reading. I will read the next book, of course, so the Binge is Not Over. ***1/2 ( )
  sibyx | Nov 27, 2015 |
Summary: Mildmay has been many things over his life - orphan, kept thief, assassin - but is currently making his living as a cat burglar in the slums of Mélusine. Felix Harrowgate lives at the other end of the social spectrum, as one of the powerful wizards who live in the Mirador, the city's citadel and hub of its magical powers. Felix also has a dark past, which he had thought he had escaped, until his former master and tutor reappears and ensnares him in his newest web of scheming and violence, leaving him broken in mind and spirit, even as the Virtu - the source of magical power at the heart of the Mirador - is broken. Mildmay, too, is having a difficult time; he's being hunted by some of the worst people in the city's underworld, and is barely surviving day to day before he's caught up in a finding charm cast by a magician… a magician who was looking for Felix.

Review: I ultimately wound up enjoying this book, although it took me forever to read, and I really wasn't enjoying the first part of it at all (those last two issues are undoubtedly related). This book is very much character driven, not plot driven, and while that is very much its strength, it is also a weakness, particularly for a reader new to the series who is trying to get herself oriented to the world. There is a fair amount packed in right at the beginning - Malkar's use of Felix in the breaking of the Virtu happens before page 50, before the reader really has a handle on the world, on who these characters are, or for what it all really means. (Also, this book is not shy about a lot of really dark subjects, including one of the most brutal rape scenes I've ever read - and I've read A Song of Ice and Fire - and a lot of this horrible brutality is *also* front-loaded in the book.) So Monette sets her hook early on: what's going to happen to Felix? How does Mildmay fit into the story? However, she then follows it up with almost two hundred pages of very little happening. Felix has gone mad, and Mildmay has gone into hiding, and despite the structure of having brief chapters alternating between their two points of view, their storylines aren't intersecting at all, and this was the part where it really started to drag (especially the descriptions of Felix's madness, which just seemed to go on and on). The good news is that once Felix and Mildmay's stories do start to intersect, things got much more interesting. Their characters are complex and distinct, with very clear individual voices (which admittedly was a positive outcome of the slow first half of the book), and their interactions and growth over the second half of the book were hugely interesting, and what saved the book for me and made me interested in and excited about reading the sequels.

Another thing that I found challenging was Monette's style of worldbuilding. She did an excellent job of staying true to her character's voices, one outcome of which was that they knew a lot about the world that the reader didn't (they live in it, after all), and their narration would mention something - another country, a style of magic, a neighborhood, a slang term - without any explanation, since of course they knew what they meant. On the positive side, this meant that there were none of the flow-breaking infodumps that are common to many fantasy novels, but on the negative side, it meant that it was initially really hard for me to get absorbed in a world that I didn't really understand yet, as I would frequently come across a term or a reference I didn't recognize, and would struggle to figure out if it was something I should recognize but had forgotten, something I should be able to figure out from context, or something that was totally unfamiliar. Even something like a map would have helped me orient myself. I can appreciate the skill it takes to do the worldbuilding in this kind of naturalistic way, and I did have a much better feeling for things by the end of the book, but it made the early parts even more of a challenge to get into and get through.

Monette's writing is lovely; her characterizations are rich and multidimensional and true to their own voices - Felix is more cerebral and poetic; Mildmay's is earthier and more direct and full of gutter cant. (Mildmay's side of things actually reminded me a bit of The Lies of Locke Lamora, although without so much of the humor to lighten things up.) Overall, this is a dense book, but I think it's ultimately successful, and one that I think would actually improve with re-reading, and with the sequels. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I'm reserving final judgement until I see what Monette does in the sequels with the world and the characters that she so laboriously built in this book. But on this book's merits alone, I'd say it's worth a try for people who are looking for character-driven high fantasy that's not a typical quest, good-vs-evil type plot, and are willing to stick it out for an (ultimately worthwhile) slow burn. ( )
2 vote fyrefly98 | Aug 13, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Monetteprimary authorall editionscalculated
York, JudyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This is the worst story I know about hocuses. And it’s true.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0441014178, Mass Market Paperback)

Mélusine-a city of secrets and lies, pleasure and pain, magic and corruption. It is here that wizard Felix Harrowgate and cat-burglar Mildmay the Fox will find their destinies intertwined in a world of sensuality and savagery.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:01 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Melusine - 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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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