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Mélusine

by Sarah Monette

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Doctrine of Labyrinths (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,3806213,887 (3.98)114
"{An} extraordinary first fantasy novel focuses on two captivating characters . . . {A} highly original writer with her own unique voice." -Publishers Weekly, starred review From an award-winning author, the first book in the spellbinding series, The Doctrine of Labyrinths Welcome to M?usine , a city as wondrous as it is corrupt. Within its walls lies a stronghold of power and magic, a shining setting for the brilliant Felix Harrowgate. A well-respected wizard and darling of the court, Felix harbors sordid secrets from his peers in the aristocracy: a dark past in which a sadistic wizard enslaved him body and mind, even as he schooled Felix in how to walk among noblemen as if he were one of them. An abuser Felix believes himself free of, until a return to his former master's lair leads to his harrowing fall from grace. Broken, lost, Felix finds an unlikely accomplice in Mildmay the Fox. Trained to be an assassin, surviving as a thief, Mildmay knows what it is to be hunted. When fate brings the weakened wizard and the wanted killer together, they escape M?usine, traveling through strange lands where they encounter peculiar magic and powerful demons. A world where shocking secrets will be laid bare-dark truths that will bind them together forever. "A lush novel, rife with decadent magic." -Jacqueline Carey, New York Times-bestselling author of the Kushiel's Legacy series "A spellbinding, gut-wrenching, breathtaking quest that resonates with truth and heart." -Joan D. Vinge, Hugo and Locus award-winning author of The Snow Queen "{Addison's} characters deserve a standing ovation." -Booklist, starred review Originally published under the name Sarah Monette.… (more)
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» See also 114 mentions

English (61)  German (1)  All languages (62)
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
A little trashy, but I was impressed by the psychology. I really like these books :) They're particularly good at throwing you for a loop. ( )
  unsurefooted | Feb 25, 2024 |
This is a WONDERFUL book. I went into it expecting M/M and it's not... really? I definitely understand why my library labeled it under the science fiction/fantasy/science fantasy section. It's sort of a cross of high fantasy and a dash of dark fantasy, mixed with comedy, plenty of angst, and some M/M elements.

The series is heart-wrenching. A lot of bad things have happened and do happen to the two protagonists. There's also a bit of sweet - a very touching moments - and some humor. It's by no means as funny as, say, one of Steven Brust's "Vlad Taltos" books or T.J. Klune's "Tales From Verania", but it does have some great sarcasm and humor.

I love Felix, but it took some time for me to come around to Mildmay. Once I did, though, ah, I adore them both. Usually in books like this, the characters interact or at least their stories cross paths closer than like... the last third of the book, as seems to be the case here. Since I expected this to be M/M, I was surprised to see actually the two characters aren't romancing each other. It's more like two overlapping fantasy novellas that finally cross at that last third. It's a bit of a weird way to write a book, particularly given how powerfully different the two storylines are. Felix is very focused on trauma, torture, a very bad healthcare and justice system, and dealing with mental illness. Mildmay is a thief trying to survive in a world slowly going mad. I can see how that contrast might turn people off. I enjoyed Felix's sections far more than Mildmay's for some time. But the writing is just so good and the worldbuilding so well crafted and the character development is wonderful. That last third where the stories finally interact is also so very, very good.

The world is polished and complex - but not overly so - in a way that not many high fantasy authors can pull off without writing tomes longer than the entire "Harry Potter" series, so that Monette did so in a relatively short novel is quite impressive. It reminds me a lot of Steven Brust's Dragaera books - both writers write complexity that you're not overwhelmed by. Maybe for a couple pages as you adjust, but then you learn to trust that the author will get around to telling you in time.

A few scenes stand out as particularly touching, including one reunion between Felix and another character, and a truly heartbreaking scene Felix has with Gideon by the tower. I've been where Felix was with that mindset in the latter scene and it was so well-written here. If only we all had Gideons like that for those moments. The build-up was excellent, as well. And Mildmay and Felix's relationship is beautifully written. Their interactions are the best. The only character I'm curious about is Vida - she kind of falls off the map without explanation - which is extra confusing because another female character whose name starts with 'V' takes the spotlight - and I'm worried she died off-screen, which sucks. I liked her.

It's really sad that this series is basically out of print. I'm glad my library had copies but it was hard to get some of my own. Looking forward to book 2! ( )
  AnonR | Aug 5, 2023 |
I was pleased to find that Katharine Addison / Sarah Monette still crafted excellent characters prior to her 'Goblin Emperor' fame, but frustrated with the lack of plot. Like, really. The protagonists don't even *meet* or *have goals* until well over half way through. They are really interesting, and distinct, and done with nuance in an interesting world. But they aren't *doing* anything, which is a big black mark. I can take quite a bit of 'not doing anything' in the service of good characters, but this is really quite slow. The second book isn't much better in that regard. It seems there is a natural break between the first and second two, so I haven't moved on from there yet.

So, this opens with with a first person account of the protagonist being raped by an *evil* wizard for his *evil* spell. But thankfully doesn't return to that theme (other than it's impact on events downstream). Likewise, it suggests that it might be starting an incest plotline, but never actually goes there either. It's apparently just close enough to romance to keep making me scared it's going to devolve into cheap smut, but so far, it's kept it's head above water.

OK, so not quite romance, certainly not plot focused, what is this? Very detailed, sympathetic character portraits of two unrealistically attractive men: one an insane wizard, who is incredibly charismatic and pathologically manipulative, the other the sort of sneak-theif grifter better typified in 'Lies of Locke Lamora' or 'Six of Crows'. They putter around their nifty magic city for a while, then go on a journey and come back. It's quite serious, and somewhat dark (if you didn't get that part from raped onscreen by an evil wizard). ( )
  alspachc | Jul 10, 2022 |
I am reviewing a DTB version.

Wow! That was the longest prologue I've ever read!
Now I can go back to page 1 and start enjoying the book.
Many reviews that mention re-reads make sense now.

*****

Few thoughts on the book, the writing, the characters, the shenanigans. No spoilers, just want to keep my outrage contained in the spoiler tags.


Tho I like it when authors dump you right in the middle of things and you have to start running the moment you hit the ground, this was not the case. I sure did do some legwork, but it was mostly bouncing up and down on the same spot, trying to get hold on my bearings. What? Who? Where? How? but most often than not WTF? were the questions popping into my head every other paragraph.

None of the places, politics, history and even characters, including one of the MCs, are explored enough for readers to fully comprehend the magnitude of events that the author is bestowing upon us until it's almost into the second half.

* Felix doesn't get to shine in the beginning of the book; hell, Felix doesn't get to be or do anything before all hell brakes loose. He doesn't get. to. be. Although SM keeps showering us with "Felix is This" and "Felix is That", all we see is a mad, wounded, bleeding dog instead of a shiny pretty thing, and its running, whimpering, to his abuser after being called "a whore". That one word and an unsubstantiated implication to go along does not justify Felix's violent overreaction. I am sure it's all perfect in MS's head, but she clearly prefers not to share any additional bits with us (and there are more to come).
Where is this person who thinks quick on his legs? SM's shiny version of Felix should handle it in no time flat, instead he is seeking out his uber abusive master he hasn't seen in years and loading on drugs like there is no tomorrow.

.........................................

Felix the magnificent, "whose deadly wit is the terror of the court” my ass. Whiny little pup!

* The book is packed with too many elaborate names that mean nothing, people who never show up and have no impact on the events, places we never go to.

Not sure why French rev. calendar was used. To give an instant historical setting? Sorry, it didn't work. You can't use a calendar and a bunch of French sounding names to instantly set the stage, unless its real France and the time is set roughly during the very end of 18th/beginning of 19th centuries. Same goes for Troia/Greece. These tricks confuse, not clarify events or describe places or historical periods in fantasy fiction.

I jam fond of French history and literature, but even then it took me a few minutes to zoom in on Pluviôse, I simply did not expect it. It was one of my first in the long line of WTF moments. I am sure many of us remember the calendar, but then there are many who do not.


To SM:
*Please, translate for the overwhelming majority of your non-russian speaking audience, what the hell Morskaiakrov means. Would it kill you to make a footnote: *Morskayakrov (russian) - Sea Blood. In current setting it implies that the family who operates the boat has sea in their blood. They were born into the trade and sea is their home and their life.
Please, quit making people feel inadequate and leaving them tongue-twisted and cross-eyed.

* Too many side stories. For what purpose? Ah.... of course. Page count. But they slow down the flow of the main story and leave loose ends all over the place.
What was the deal with the hidden attic at St. Crellifer's? Great escape route. Great way in. But was it utilized? I really hope it will come handy later, because as of right now it's an opportunity and reader's time wasted.

*POV switching. Two paragraphs here. Half a page there. Past Tense, Present Tense... I am looking forward (not!) to colons in The Virtu, that's on top of Italics and Mildmay's bad and inconstant speech antics.

*Would it greatly burden you to have a glossary of terms and names in the beginning of the book? If anything it will expand your page count.

*Please, mention your septads in the glossary of your quirks. Two septads and six is an amusing take on 20 questions, but - really? Really? Invent your own question game and leave decimals out.

OK, shutting up now. There is more in my updates if anyone cares.


This book made me angry. Felix, too, at the very end, with his lack of gratitude and common sense made me angry. BUT. The story held my interest. I am starting The Virtue today. That counts for something, I guess.

3 stars.

PS Shannon. I feel bad for him. Felix is one ungrateful piece of ...work.

PPS Melusine. With all my rumblings I totally spaced out. This should be in the first paragraph instead of PPS: For a city named Melusine there is a surprisingly short appearance of water creatures. Memorable. But short. A cameo :/
( )
  Mrella | Mar 8, 2021 |
Took forever for it to get somewhere where it 100% made sense but it was worth it. The development was really great and I loved everything that happened. The points of view were great because you get both sides so you know what both are thinking and you can be torn apart even more by misunderstandings! Hahaha! It's so great. At first, I was gonna give this a four but the ending was just SO LOVELY that it deserved the extra star. I can't wait to continue the series! ( )
  Isana | Jul 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Monetteprimary authorall editionscalculated
York, JudyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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"{An} extraordinary first fantasy novel focuses on two captivating characters . . . {A} highly original writer with her own unique voice." -Publishers Weekly, starred review From an award-winning author, the first book in the spellbinding series, The Doctrine of Labyrinths Welcome to M?usine , a city as wondrous as it is corrupt. Within its walls lies a stronghold of power and magic, a shining setting for the brilliant Felix Harrowgate. A well-respected wizard and darling of the court, Felix harbors sordid secrets from his peers in the aristocracy: a dark past in which a sadistic wizard enslaved him body and mind, even as he schooled Felix in how to walk among noblemen as if he were one of them. An abuser Felix believes himself free of, until a return to his former master's lair leads to his harrowing fall from grace. Broken, lost, Felix finds an unlikely accomplice in Mildmay the Fox. Trained to be an assassin, surviving as a thief, Mildmay knows what it is to be hunted. When fate brings the weakened wizard and the wanted killer together, they escape M?usine, traveling through strange lands where they encounter peculiar magic and powerful demons. A world where shocking secrets will be laid bare-dark truths that will bind them together forever. "A lush novel, rife with decadent magic." -Jacqueline Carey, New York Times-bestselling author of the Kushiel's Legacy series "A spellbinding, gut-wrenching, breathtaking quest that resonates with truth and heart." -Joan D. Vinge, Hugo and Locus award-winning author of The Snow Queen "{Addison's} characters deserve a standing ovation." -Booklist, starred review Originally published under the name Sarah Monette.

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