Saturday, July 15, 2006

Melusine - Sarah Monette

Sarah Monette

Fantasy - Dark Fantasy

Felix Harrowgate is a respected wizard living in the city of Mélusine. And, while he takes on the trappings, mannerisms and accent of a courtier to the Lord Protector, he is always mindful of the need to cover his beginnings. Truth be told, and it will be, the wizard Malkar discovered Felix as a boy working as a prostitute. Malkar became his protector and mentor, but at a horrible price. Malkar uses Felix, physically and mentally; combining their magics to break the Virtu, the seat of the magical power that permeates the city. Broken in mind and body, and unable to defend himself because of compulsions laid on him by his erstwhile mentor, Felix is captured and imprisoned for “his” crime.

Mildmay the Fox grew up in training to be a thief and, when needed, an assassin. After getting free of his Keeper, he maintains a low profile and makes a living as a cat burglar for hire. His life is quite different from Felix’s life, but despite his underworld status, he is his own man. He has little time for the higher bits of society, and even less for the wizards. When the two men’s paths cross and their connection is revealed, Mildmay finds himself embarking on a seemingly impossible quest to repair the Virtu at the urging of a deranged wizard. But even Mildmay’s street smarts are about to be put to the test, since nothing is quite as it appears to be.

The reader is literally dropped into the fully realized world with no preparation. While this might have been a problem in less talented hands, here it allows the reader a sense of immediate immersion and discovery. The story is told, alternately, by the two characters, Felix and Mildmay, and their voices couldn’t be much more different. Felix quickly moves from quiet authority to despairing insanity. Mildmay’s voice is that of a Fagin-esque street thief, littered with profanity and gutter slang. Readers offended or bothered by homosexuality or profanity should steer clear. Others will be hooked from the very first pages.

“Mélusine” is enthralling; a very dark fantasy, filled with nuanced characters that inhabit a very complex world. It’s sometimes difficult to tell the ‘good guys’ from the ‘bad guys’ since neither ever devolves into stereotypical behavior. Given the assurance with which she writes, it’s hard to believe that this is the author’s debut novel. The next book, “The Virtu,” a continuation of this story, is available now. That’s a good thing, since you’ll want to start on it the minute you finish this one. Highly recommended for those who enjoy dark adult-oriented fantasy.

Rating: 9
July 2006
ISBN# 0-441-01417-8 (paperback)

Rating Scale = 1-10


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