This is a profoundly upsetting book, worse even than the previous two in the series. That probably doesn't sound like much of a compliment, yet it is, because the reason this novel leaves you in such an emotional muddle is entirely due to the depth of affection you feel for the characters. There's not a fantasy author in the business right now better than Ms. Monette at drawing you into her world and making you believe absolutely in the people she's writing about.
There's not as much pure adventure in this novel as there is in its two predecessors, which is inevitable given the fact that the action takes place entirely in Melusine. Nor does this book exhibit the solid emotional core that made _The Virtu_ such a joy to read--the complicated, fascinating relationship between Mildmay and Felix. While that certainly still exists, it is neither explored nor developed. Felix has lapsed back into his nasty, self-centered ways, and is backsliding by degrees on the promise he made to his brother not to use their magical bond against him. Mildmay is stuck, for most of the novel, in exactly the same amnesiac place he occupied when _The Virtu_ ended. And there are very few scenes in the book that involve only the two brothers. You understand why they're being so cautious, and yet so careless, with each other, yet you can't help but feel frustrated by the distance between them. You hope for better, but you never get more than occasional echoes of the intensity that characterized their journey back to Melusine.
All that aside, the plot does move with its expected intricacy from point A to point B, Mehitabel's character emerges from the shadows, Mildmay continues to exhibit his extraordinary talent for finding his way through mazes both literal and figurative, and Felix narrowly escapes the gruesome fate planned for him by his enemies. By the time the book ends you do have reason to hope that life is going to improve for the brothers, which I suppose is about as much in the way of optimism as one can expect from such a dark, painful novel.
This is an excellent read. The book won't make any sense if you try to start with it, though, so begin at the beginning with _Melusine_ if you haven't already. And if you've visited Ms. Monette's world before, by all means keep going with it. It's very much worth your time.
on August 7, 2007
I've been counting the months and days for this third book in the Melusine series and it was indeed worth the wait. Set two years after the events in The Virtu, the first person narratives of Felix and Mildmay are joined by those of actress/spy Mehitabel Parr. The lapse in time as a plot device works well for her character, giving plausability to her settled position and blooming career on the stage. Felix and Mildmay seem to be in a holding pattern though, with their relationship and situations at the beginning of this book much the same as where we left off in The Virtu. The only big exception to this is Felix's (now) longstanding partnership with Gideon dissipating the sexual tension between Felix and Mildmay (something I was actually disappointed in). Though it's been suggested that everyone seems to be constantly on the outs with each other in this series, it makes me appreciate Monette's writing even more that everything is not suddenly sunshine and kittens. The characters all have pasts that fostered such a lack of trust for anyone in any sort of protector role (their various Keepers not to mention Malkar) that the smallest step in the development of their relationships is an emotional milestone. This is definately a world where one's quickly thrown to the wolves and she doesn't let you forget it. Mildmay's desperate need to have some sort of relationship with Felix is for me the most compelling of all the plot lines, though Felix's descent into the world of tarquins and martyrs and his slow realization that he's becoming what he hates most is right up there as well. Sorry Mehitabel...it's hard to compete with that much drama.
Set almost entirely in the city of Melusine, this book had me drawing parallels to Tanith Lee's "Secret Books of Paradys" and not only for the use of French names and places. Lee's dark and haunting books drew me in like a fish on a hook and Monette's are just as compelling with the rich, sinister atmosphere and history of her world. The first person narratives give the sense that she's telling these stories straight to you, through the characters, like ghost stories on a dark night. That's part of what makes me unable to put the darn things down until I've read them cover to cover. The author's website gives a useful map of the city and an explanation of the calendrical system, a touch that shows how she's thought this world through to a delightfully intricate level which includes family dynasties, labyrinth-based religions, ancient magics, the city's own form of caste system and this volume's focus on spy machinations. Let's not forget the Obligation d'ame whose mention always leaves me curious to see where it will all play out. To make a long review short because I don't want to give away plot points - there are alot of authors who write alot of books that I enjoy reading in a year, but Monette's are on a short list that really capture my imagination. They leave me feeling like spreading the word about how fantastic they are (this is the first review I've ever written in all my years of using Amazon - that's how strongly I feel about this series!). And needless to say, I'm already eagerly awaiting the next one.
on April 23, 2016
I've kept going with this series despite the atrocious character development because the plot is interesting and character development gets better with time. And it did! Mehitabel, who makes her first person debut in this volume, is an actual, interesting character! She doesn't wallow in self pity and has motivations and secrets.
She also tries to fill in missing areas for Felix and Mildmay. It's is too little too late in some areas - retconning motivations for things that happened in the previous book don't help much. It leaves some huge elephants in the room. One, the slave bond between Felix and Mildmay, which never made sense (she didn't develop it as being a viable alternative and didn't explore any other reasons until now). Two, the relationship between Felix and Gideon, which she never injected with any intimacy or passion or anything that would make us think of it as a love bond, even a broken love bond. It was treated as mostly Gideon being a sucker for punishment.
The elephants keep this from being a great book, but it's a better book.
Now let's talk about who decided that $18.99 was a fair price for an e-book for the next volume? I ordered a used copy of the paperback for $0.90. If the ebook had been $5.99 I would have bought it and the author would have gotten a cut, but instead the small audience is forced to recycle the initial print copies.
I honestly can't imagine who pays $20 for old release ebooks that are available used, which can't even be resold.
on December 8, 2012
The world setting is detailed and believable in this fantasy. Secondary characters are well-drawn. The main characters have clear and distinguishable attributes. The writing style is clear, and the plotting is good enough not to give away too much in advance. My only quibble: Felix has so many negative attributes (self-centered, thoughtless, rude and deliberately cruel even to people he cares about). I didn't see them offset well enough by good points for him to be likeable at all. I had a hard time having any sympathy for him. Same problem through the entire series. Even when the reader gets a hint of his regrets, his remorse still seems self-serving.
With Mildmay, also well-drawn, I had a similar difficulty. He comes across as a little too much of a doormat. Not only with Felix but with a lot of other characters, too. He can be strong, but I kept wishing that with his skills as a fighter and assassin he would be a tad tougher.
All said, I still loved the book and the series. I'd recommend it to anyone.
on December 28, 2008
Sarah Monette's The Mirador was enjoyable enough that I read it in one sitting, but some of the characters really frustrated me. This time they tend to be selfish, stupid, self-involved, and self-destructive in ways that manage to hurt the people around them as badly or worse than they hurt themselves. I wanted to shake them, especially since for the longest time it didn't look like they'd change. At least near the end some of them start to pull their heads out of their butts.
There's a plot thread that I felt was clumsily introduced, to the point where as it was going on I wondered if it would mean something later or if Monette was boring me for no reason. I ended up skimming some of the Mehitabel sections. The ending resolves little and obviously sets up a sequel.
The series seems to have diminishing returns for me. I didn't enjoy The Virtu as much as I had Mélusine, and I like The Mirador less than I did The Virtu. But I'll still check out the inevitable sequel to The Mirador. The magic is still interesting, and I continue to hope that Mildmay will pick up more of a spine and Felix will eventually stop making me want to smack him so much. I'm glad that Mildmay does some self-discovery here.
on September 17, 2007
I loved the first two books in this series, Melusine, and The Virtu. The relationship between Mildmay and Felix is incredibly complex and engaging. I couldn't put the books down, and even when I wasn't reading them, found myself thinking about them constantly. The third installment, The Mirador, is just not quite as good. I think its main drawback is the addition of the third viewpoint, Mehitabel. I think maybe the author felt these chapters had to be there to justify Felix's fate in the end (don't want to give anything away). But honestly, I found her story rather tedious. The truth was, I just could not wait to get back to Mildmay and Felix's chapters. I'm giving this book 4 stars instead of 5 because of Mehitabel, and the fact that her chapters seem to push Mildmay and Felix to the side. That being said, I would still recommend it. There is obviously another installment yet to come, and it cannot possibly be out soon enough. I hope that we will see the two brothers taking center stage again.
on August 11, 2007
I was very excited when this third book in the series came out and popped it out of its box and started reading the second I got home from work.
I love the characters, the intrigue but I felt this installment was lacking the quick paced adventures that the first two novels exhibited throughout the storyline. Halfway through the book I kept wondering the pace was going to pick up - I must admit that I started breezing through Mehitabel's sections to see if anything more exciting that political manuevering and lover's quarrels were going to occur. Felix and Mildmay were hardly together and most of their adventures occurred away from each other. I didn't feel that anything new was revealed about the brother's relationship - or about either one of them, for that matter.
I'm going to re-read it again (not skipping anything this time!) but I do wish it had been a bit more fast paced adventure and a little less "theatrics". I will still eagerly await the next installment and be sure to pre-order it!!
on October 8, 2007
Sarah Monette has created an absolutely fascinating world, but it is her characters who really draw me in. I love both Felix and Mildmay (though Mildmay is my favorite). I wasn't sure if I would like having Mehitabel as a narrator, but it seemed to work and allowed the reader to see outside both Mildmay and Felix.
I don't know if I enjoyed this 3rd installment as much as the first two. Don't get me wrong, I liked it quite a bit. And the first 2 were so good, that even if this one wasn't as engaging, it is still worth 5 stars.
Sarah Monette, The Mirador (Ace, 2007)
In many series, there comes a tipping point where the ongoing story of the recurring characters becomes more important to the author than the story line contained in each book. Perhaps one can consider the mark of a good series author to be how that tipping point is handled; in the case of, say, Robert Parker (who hit it in Early Autumn, the best Spenser novel that ever was), we may find that the ongoing story is actually more interesting than the book-length story. (And then, on the other side of the coin, there is Terry Goodkind. Yeesh.) The Mirador, the third book in Monette's series The Doctrine of Labyrinths, doesn't so much hip the tipping point as go screeching headlong into a tipping wall; there are plots that are fully contained in this book, yes, but they are trifling matters indeed; what the book is really about is unanswered questions from the first two books (who was it, really, that killed Mildmay's most recent girlfriend?) and sharpening focus on what had previously been vague clouds, at best, of ominousness (what would seem to be a coming war between the Mirador and the Bastion). And how is it handled? Very well indeed.
Things take up not long after the end of The Virtu, the second book in the series. Mildmay and Felix are still at one another's throats, Felix and Gideon are still together, and Mehitabel has found herself a comfortable spot in one of the local theaters. There's some rumbling about the ex-Bastion members who sought refuge with the Mirador being spies (and some of it might actually be true), but things are actually kind of calm for the moment, which leaves Mildmay to ponder the question of who got his last love dead (and whether he's already taken revenge for it), Felix to ponder stuff he learned while overseas and tailor it to Mirador-style magic, Gideon to study ancient texts from the Mirador's voluminous library, and Mehitabel to spy for the Bastion. Oh, yes, as it turns out, there is a Bastion spy in Melusine, it's just not one of the wizards...
The main plot of the book, assuming there actually is one, is the who-killed-Mildmay's-lover line, but this is an ensemble plot more than anything, and all the more so because most of the subplots never tie together the way they do in neater (and less realistic) books. Yes, I did use the term "realistic"; given the world in which the book is set, there is magic, of course, but less here than in Monette's previous volumes. This is about spy work and mysteries and domestic strife rather than wizards battling one another, and that brings a sort of homey intimacy to it. Assuming your home was anything like, say, the Borgias.
Where series novels, no matter the genre, are usually plot-based affairs, books like this tend to be where a writer focuses much more on characterization than in earlier books in a given series, which is why I think the tipping-point book is the mark of a good writer. (Granted, some series don't have them. What to do in those cases? Don't ask me.) The writing must sparkle in order to make such character-based books work well, and The Mirador, lovely thing that it is, does sparkle. Even if you want to kill Sarah Monette after you've read the final chapter of this book. Some questions were never meant to be answered. ****
on April 27, 2013
With its magical focus restored, security returns to the Mirador and Felix can resume his position as one of its most powerful wizards. But the Bastion, a faction of dangerous rival wizards, sends spies and start plans which threaten this tenuous peace. The Mirador adds an unexpected but rewarding new protagonist, Mehitabel; vibrant characters and narratives have been the highlight in this series, and Mehitabel, too, shines from the page, bringing welcome diversity to the cast. But the plot--well, it doesn't flounder, but it's highly political and reactive: our protagonists don't affect it so much as they discover it. It's a functional vehicle for consistently fascinating, changable, and complex character interaction, but makes for a somewhat immemorable book. Nonetheless, The Mirador is a sequel in line with its predecessors, strongly peopled, voiced, and set; if you read the others, which you should, you'd do well to continue with on with this one, and I will complete the series--but I hope for a little more from the final book.