The first book for this week’s review is "Melusine" by Sarah Monette. I’m having a hard time deciding what to say about this one because it has some obvious, major flaws, but I enjoyed it anyway. This is mostly due to the vivid, funny and pretty vulgar first person narrative by the character Mildmay the Fox. In fact, his portion of the story is so much more interesting and better told that it completely overshadows the first person narrative of the other major character, Felix Harrowgate. This is unusual to me because from the outside description, I would have expected for Felix to be the more interesting character.
I also thought that this book was in desperate need of some type of prequel or at least a prologue chapter. The reader is left with the feeling of being plunked down into the middle of a story that’s already been going on for a while. I found the geography of the city of Melusine as well as the surrounding countryside to be confusing and I agree with one of the reviewers on the Amazon site who complained about the use of the word “septad.” It really was impossible to figure out whether it means days, weeks, years or what. Some of the more interesting secondary characters never reach their full development and a couple of characters simply disappear part way through the book and are never mentioned again. The reader never finds out what happened to them. Lastly, the book ends extremely abruptly and if I didn’t already know there was a sequel coming (“The Virtu” due out in June, 2006), I’d’ve hurled it at the wall in frustration.
And yet, there’s something compelling about the world that Monette has created. I’m dying to know more about the various wizards’ factions – what do they believe and why are they fighting. What about Felix’s past? How did he and Shannon first get together? Then there’s Mildmay. Despite his background as a thief and sometime hired killer, one can’t help liking him and sympathizing with his situation and his exasperation with all the losers and madmen around him.
I will warn you that this book contains a lot of foul language (particularly on Mildmay’s part). There’s also homosexuality and a rape scene. Felix’s description of his madness can be quite disturbing as well. However, I didn’t find any of these darker elements to be gratuitous – they are intrinsic to the characters and the plot. I suppose Mildmay could’ve dropped fewer f-bombs here and there and the reader still would’ve been well aware of what his background is, but even there, I didn’t find it out of character.
Overall, I recommend “Melusine.” The flaws are overshadowed by the fascinating characters and worldcrafting.
Next, I continued my foray into Sharon Shinn’s angel series with ”Jovah's Angel”. While I didn’t find the main characters quite as compelling as Rachel and Gabriel in the first book, “Archangel”, still, I find the world and the series to be fascinating. The angels Alleluia and Delilah are interesting and, in Delilah’s case, tragic figures, but the male characters of Caleb and Noah were underdeveloped in my opinion. I enjoyed the way Shinn fast-forwarded the action in that this second book takes place 150 years after “Archangel” so the reader can see the major changes that have taken place in Samarrian society with the advent of technology. I thought it stretched believability somewhat that Caleb would have such a varied understanding of technology from dam building to repairing music machines to unknown alien spacecraft. But, that was a minor blip in an otherwise enjoyable read. I’ve purchased the entire series and am already part way through the third book, but I’ll save that for next week’s review.
Happy weekend, everyone!