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Melusine Mass Market Paperback – June 27, 2006

3.5 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Set in the wondrous city of Mélusine, Monette's extraordinary first fantasy novel focuses on two captivating characters from two very different worlds: Felix Harrowgate, a powerful magician at the court of Lord Steven Teverius, and Mildmay the Fox, a cat burglar who has been trained as an assassin. When Felix falls prey to the unscrupulous machinations of a man who's plotting to destroy Mélusine, he's left nearly mad, unable to clear his name or explain his actions. Mildmay, on the other hand, undertakes a simple burglary, thinking it will lead to a bit of extra flash that will keep him going for more than a few days. Instead, the burglary opens the way to a series of unfortunate events that force Felix and Mildmay into a partnership neither of them could have anticipated or desired. Jacqueline Carey provides a blurb, but those readers expecting a knock-off of that author's Kushiel series will be happily surprised. Monette resembles Carey only insofar as she, too, is a highly original writer with her own unique voice.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Mélusine is a city both sordid and splendid, rich in history and layered with corruption. Monette shows readers this fantastical place through the eyes of two characters: Felix, a member of an elite society of wizards, and Mildmay, a thief and former assassin. After his past as a whore is revealed, Felix returns to the man who trained him to pass as a noble. His malicious mentor uses a sexual ritual and Felix's magic to shatter the Virtu, a crystal that stabilizes magic. Felix goes mad, is imprisoned, and is sent to an asylum. Mildmay's precarious existence becomes more and more difficult. When he hits rock bottom, he is hired by another wizard, whose card divination says Mildmay will lead him to Felix. Monette has created an interesting world, leaving enough unexplained to intrigue patient readers. Profane Mildmay and insane Felix have distinctive narrative voices. Side plots and secondary characters are dropped soon after the two meet, so any resolution of the many issues raised will have to wait until the sequel.–Susan Salpini, TASIS–The American School in England
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Melusine (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Ace (June 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441014178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441014170
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,278,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Margaret Johnston VINE VOICE on August 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sarah Monette's _Melusine_ is a fabulous debut fantasy novel, about a pair of unlikely heroes in a richly imagined world. Felix Harrowgate is a wizard of the Mirador, powerful and respected until a long-held secret is divulged which drives him back to his evil master, Malkar, and into insanity. Meanwhile, the thief Mildmay the Fox is drawn into intrigue when he meets Ginevra, a beautiful shopgirl who wants him to steal back some items from her former lover. Eventually, the separate stories of Felix and Mildmay combine into one, as they form an unlikely partnership.

The real triumph of _Melusine_ is in its language and voice. Monette tells the story in three separate voices -- Felix's haughty sanity, Felix's insane delirium, and Mildmay's slangy thieves' cant -- and she handles them brilliantly, never losing her grasp for an instant or letting the reader be confused about who's narrating. Along with the narrative voices, the language is simply lush and vivid, utterly suitable to the richness of the setting; the city of Melusine is particularly well described in Mildmay's sections of the narrative.

As far as the characters go, I preferred Mildmay's narrative to some extent, as he's the more immediately sympathetic character, with unsuspected depths of feeling. Felix falls into madness so quickly that it was a little difficult for me truly to enpathize with the change in his circumstances, as there had been so little time to get to know him before his fall. Still, the vivid, present-tense passages where he's delirious and mad are emotionally compelling, simply for the horror of what he endures.
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Format: Hardcover
One of my problems with "Melusine" is that it seems that rape is used as shorthand. We know Malkar is bad because he rapes Felix, we know that Felix is kind of bad but not totally because he intends to rape a prostitute but doesn't. It stuck out especially as Monette is an incredibly strong writer, so shortcuts like this really brought me out of the moment of the book.

That aside, this is a fantastic book. Monette is ace at world building and mythology, at crafting religion and schools of magic, at setting up different ethnicities of people with different socio-political structures. We skim the surface of a fully realized world, never quite dipping all the way into it (God save me from ever having to figure out the calendrical system Mildmay uses. Yes, I can figure it out in the context of the book, but using it every single day? Man.), but catching glimpses of just how rich and real that world is.

Monette is also fabulous at capturing two very different voices. "Melusine" is told from the point of view of two extremely different characters, Mildmay and Felix. Mildmay is a Second Story Man, a "kept thief" as he puts it. He is ignorant, although not stupid, and fairly coarse. He is, to put it bluntly, common. He's also fairly kind and surprisingly compassionate, a gifted storyteller, and an all around cool guy. Felix, on the other hand, is clever and well educated, bitingly sarcastic, not very likeable, and very very fancy. He is selfish and egotistical and much more fragile than Mildmay. And it only takes a few sentences to convey this information about them.

"Melusine" is one of those books that are almost infinitely re-readable, and also one of those books that I loan out to people. "Melusine" (and its sequel, "The Virtu") is a fantastic, poetic read. It's extremely flavorful and highly recomended.
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Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading "Melusine" and am in the process of tracking down its sequel, "The Virtu." It is very seriously one of the best books I've read in a long time. From world-building to language-use to characterization to plot, it displays a very high level of authorial skill and was an absolutely compelling read. I've read a number of the other reviews here and must admit to being mystified that so many people find the book so very confusing.

Yes, it begins in the middle of the story, which is a pretty common technique used by other authors for hundreds of years. Yes, it has its own slang and an intense inner knowledge of the world given out in little bits throughout the narrative and from two differently educated first-person POVs. Yes, the wizard character is pretty unlikable, but so what? So was Dostoyevsky's Underground Man and nobody denies "Notes From the Underground" was a good book.

This book respects the reader and expects the reader to be smart enough to put a grand vision of the world together from the clues they're given. It assumes you have some basic background knowledge of language, so that you'll be able to make the not very hard translation from words like "nelly" to "molly" or notice that many of the terms being thrown up have giant cluephone base words in them so you can clearly tell what the term means within the world of the book despite nobody handing you a travel dictionary.

If you want a book where you've seen everything before and everything is spelled out for you in very plain English and don't want to have to think about it, this isn't the book for you.
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