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Dans l'ombre de Paris: la…
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Dans l'ombre de Paris: la dernière geste, le premier chant (edition 2019)

by Morgan Of Glencoe

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Member:Loup_Solitaire
Title:Dans l'ombre de Paris: la dernière geste, le premier chant
Authors:Morgan Of Glencoe
Info:Chambéry, Actusf, 2019
Collections:LS - À trouver en ebook
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Dans l'ombre de Paris: la dernière geste, le premier chant by Morgan of Glencoe

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Morgan of Glencoe, a Breton writer/musician (harpist), has recently had her debut novel republished by Éditions ActuSF. As it goes in such a situation, the text was revised, the title changed, new artwork, and so on. So, out with [b:Si loin du Soleil|30812926|Si loin du Soleil (La Dernière Geste t. 1)|Morgan of Glencoe|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1467222462l/30812926._SY75_.jpg|51400838] and in with 'Dans l'ombre de Paris' (English: In the Shadow of Paris). As the story takes place in Paris, France, the book is given a chauvinistic touch.

At the same time, it's the first book in the trilogy 'La Dernière Geste'. Morgan of Glencoe is working on book two, which should see the light of day... sometime in 2020, at the earliest, of course.

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What's the story about, at least in this first book? The Japanese princess Yuri is lured to France under false pretenses - to reinforce the ties between the Empire and France - by her father, the White Ambassador over there. Little does she know, but she's to marry the Fresh (Prince of Bel-Air ;-)), eh, French prince Louis-Philippe, who's being prepared to take over the throne from his father, who currently rules with an iron first. Of course, the prince adopts this style to enforce his will. Mother and Queen Gabrielle is more of the soft kind, has to obey her husband, and tries/d to reign in her son, though with little success.

Yuri has never known her mother, or at least not long enough, and her father has been living for quite some time in France, so he hasn't been that much of a father. As the message he sent her sounds promising and Yuri has not really much of a choice but to go to France, she takes the Orient-Express for this long journey to the western world. Yuri is assisted and guarded by colonel Ryûzaki, her personal bodyguard since long, and his hybrid lieutenant HA-17, aka Levana. Our princess leaves behind a life, a place where she had servants for almost everything.

On the train, Camille-Agnès Albane du Mont de Trente-Chênes is the ruler. She's the captain, she's boss. No one is to question her authority, not even those of royal blood. This she states loud and clear, especially when Yuri's life is at stake. Luckily, there's a doctor on board - especially when a disaster is to be avoided; not everyone seems to want princess Yuri to come to France. The culprit is never found, though. Or not yet? -, able to heal (almost) any injury, poisoning, disease, ... But he's not of the human kind. Next to Ren, there's an entire crew that repairs, provides, and so on.

And that's another element in this story: the diversity of living beings. Humans, Selkies (Wikipedia-link), will-o'-the-wisps (Wikipedia-link), faeries, ... all have their place in this world, in this relatively modern version of France. Ah yes, it doesn't take place in the past, it's not a steampunk story (there have been several of those in French SFFF the last few years, though), as there are indications of modernity. It's a uchronia (Wikipedia-link).

You could divide the characters in groups:

Team Yuri
* Princess Yuri-hime
* Colonel Ryûzaki
* Lieutenant/hybrid HA-17 aka Levana

Team Louis-Philippe
* Prince Louis-Philippe
* Queen Gabrielle
* Yuri's father (Nekohaima), the White Ambassador

Team Orient-Express
* Camille-Agnès Albane du Mont de Trente-Chênes (captain)
* Douze (I think he's the engine/train driver) aka Jack
* Alcyone (Aeling, patroller)
* Ren (Spectral, doctor)
* ...

Team Sewers (Égouts in the book)
* Sir Edward Longway (Knight of Keltia, enemy of the French prince, LGBT , does have a son [Douze aka Jack], leader of the underground population)
* Bran (aka Waterlily, formerly known as Shura, LGBT , Selkie, student of Taliesin, ...)
* Drauf (responsible for the weaponry)
* Taliesin (bard, master of Bran, one of Edward's best friends and as a bard, very high ranked in the Keltian hierarchy, based on Celtic society - clarification by the author)
* ...

Upon arrival, it's clear that Yuri will need to adapt to a new culture. France isn't Japan, the way of reigning is very different. It doesn't take long before our princess starts to question her voyage and stay in France. She discovered the real reason for her being in France. Of course, one never took her own convictions and desires into account. Queen Gabrielle has a talk with the girl, feels sorry for her. As Yuri didn't want all of this to happen, Gabrielle helps her escape, but whereto? Yuri is used to a world of servants, helping her with anything, even helping her dress.

Shelter is provided, also thanks to the quick and efficient intervention of Bran aka Shura (her name when she was fighting back in Japan) and Yuri feeling sorry for her situation, especially with the sick baby-brother (if I'm not mistaken). Bran hasn't forgotten this. Bran is not human, but a selkie. She's also called Waterlily, as feels like a fish in the water.

The Sewers population is a peaceful, close-knit community. Several of them live underground, but have a dayjob above ground. Access is limited and dangerous, if you don't know which path to follow. The rodents that live there aren't as cute as your own hamster or rat, for example.

As Yuri is/was used to being served and helped, it's in the sewers that her life takes a totally different course, away from the "golden" cage. She has to learn to tie her own knots, to adopt new habits, take part in the underground life. However, she can always address her questions and worries to Bran, Edward, and so on. Little by little, she becomes more and more independent.

While the Sewers-community is peaceful, they aren't that soft with criminals, sex offenders, ... The most severe punishment is being locked up, in the dark, deep down in the sewers and you have half an hour to escape, or be devoured by the rodents. Frédéric is one whose actions (seducing a fellow community member) led to this punishment.

As it happened to be, Frédéric, a sex offender, was thus punished, but managed to escape, though not completely unharmed. When one is punished this way, this person is ousted from the community or soon enough will be. Resentful as he is, he plans to betray the community to the prince in exchange for a large reward, of course. Otherwise, why would you take the risk, as you too have lived so long underground, defying the current political system above? The prince sets up a search party (and killing spree, while at it) to bring back Yuri. But above all, it's a perfect excuse to finally take out his long-time enemy (Sir Edward), although both have left each other in peace, as the feud took place a long time ago. But Sir Edward was forced to go underground.

So, prince Louis-Philippe organises a search party with his newly formed army and Colonel Ryûzaki and HA-17/Levana; the latter under command of the prince when they arrived. They are not at all aware of how Yuri is faring. The underground population, while in the possession of arms, is not as well-equipped as the army, because they abhor violence, but will revert to it in case of danger. This time, they have to scramble and set up defenses. However, is it because the army is so efficient? Or the defenses so weak? This kind of action scene is, to be honest, dealt with in a rapid fashion. Of course, Morgan of Glencoe is no Bernard Cornwell, for example, and maybe it would have hurt the flow of the story, if the battle lasted another ten pages longer, for example.

On a sidenote: This round of extermination reminded me of Trump vs Mexicans, Erdogan vs Kurds, Israel vs Palestinians, Bolsonaro and the Amazon tribes (indigenous people), and so on. The Sewers-community are so-called vermin, criminals, etc, must thus be exterminated.

All's well that ends well, you would say. But it isn't. The killing spree was very bloody, very efficient, even. There were many casualties, especially among the underground population. And sadly enough, Yuri's main circle of friends is among them. Sir Edward, Bran, Taliesin, Samuel, ... However, the library is saved, as are the many children hiding in there. The healer (I forgot her name) who guarded them, is also safe. While the ending may be dark and cruel, not all is lost; there is hope that the wrongs will be set right.

Book two will see our princess Yuri-hime returning to the palace, taking up her life as wife of Louis-Philippe, as princess of France. Or will she?

There is one page at the end, teasing you (the reader). Frédéric might think he can now roam free, under the auspices of the prince, but then an unexpected turn of events takes place. Nekohaima, Yuri's father, had a talk with Queen Gabrielle - or rather, she wanted to talk to him, for old times' sake - about Yuri, her escape, her life underground. He also finds out about the search party and decides to take action. He pays Frédéric a visit, one that doesn't end well for our betrayer. This bodes well for the sequel. Bring it on, I'd say!

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I don't always read YA-novels, but when I do... All meme-joking aside, this first novel, this voyage into a different, darker kind of Paris (hence the title), has been a positive surprise. The writing is very good, attractive and makes this story a page-turner. Whether you're a young or older adult, this book is not really restricted to one age group. Bring on book two, 'L'Héritage du Rail'.

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Looking forward to the sequel, I hope to see at least these questions answered:

But now that Yuri's friends are gone, will she have to accept her fate (to wed the prince)? Will she be able to escape again and stand up for herself?
Will her colonel and hybrid find out the real truth and rejoin her side, accept her view on the matter, on how she wants to live her life?
Will the relationship with her father improve?
What about the queen? What role will she play next?
What about the train crew, who were also close with the Sewers-community/Égouts?

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Some general remarks about this first book:

* As Morgan of Glencoe is also a bard, music plays an important role in the story. Not just the fact that the Sewers-community enjoys music and several members play an instrument or sing (remember, Taliesin is a bard, Barn his student, ...), but McPeake's song 'Wild Mountain Thyme' (Wikipedia-link) returns now and then, in pieces or in its entiry (at the end).

* Edward, Bran, Taliesin, ... often communicate in English.

* The main character is from Japan, so the use of Japanese words is more than a logic decision. However, there is nowhere any explanation of these terms. This could have easily solved through footnotes. I hope this will be the case in the second and third books.

* The clear distinction between both cultures: the Japanese and the French. One being more closed, more tightly organised than the other. Especially Ryûzaki takes his task very personal, protects Yuri with his own life, is vigilant like no other. Although he made one little mistake. I don't know the right expression, but this one comes close: All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy. But here, it wasn't because of his own decision that he couldn't stay with Yuri 24/7.

* The author is a big fan of the word 'soudain' (English: suddenly). Using synonyms would have made the reading a little more attractive. See L'Internaute.fr. On the other hand, her use of 'soudain' reminded me of the French comedian Pierre Desproges, especially this video (YouTube-link, at /- 2:07). Desproges' definition (if I understood correctly, since it's an old recording): "...une clause de style destinée à veiller votre intérêt de façon appel honnête, dans la mesure où c'est en vain qu'on pourra tenter de déceler la moindre trace de soudaineté dans l'action qui va suivre." Simply brilliant, this play on words. :-)

* An often used expression, especially by the Orient-Express crew (and its captain): Suie et charbon! (English: Soot and coal!)

* Ren (the doctor on the train) is a close friend (if not lover) of Bran, but he too was subjected to assaults. His lab was blown to pieces, but he survived. How he fared after the underground search party, and who was behind the attack, I don't know any more, but I hope book two will provide the answers.

* Yuri showed compassion with Shura/Bran back in Japan. Bran not being human. Surprise, surprise, it's exactly the exotics (the non-human beings) who come to her rescue; the exact same beings whom prince Louis-Philippe seeks to eradicate.

* The train crew is called Fourmis (Ants), while the Sewers-community is referred to as Rats (as these rodents also dwell under the ground, in the sewers)

* Should you want a bit more information on this story, you can read this little interview (LINK) on ActuSF.com.

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I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust. ( )
  TechThing | Jan 22, 2021 |
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