Thursday, November 11, 2010

Melusine by Sarah Monette

MelusineWow, this was some really dark fantasy. I nearly hated it, but I couldn't really put it down. I still am not sure I entirely understand the setting of the novel; it's like some huge decadent and decaying empire, with history and political wrangling merely hinted at in tantalizing morsels scattered within the story. The action begins in the city of Melusine, ruled by a lord protector whose court appears to be an ad hoc group of wizards (called hocuses) and assorted nobles.

Felix, one of the primary protagonists in the novel, is a hocus and a member of the court. He has a quite scandalous past, which no one at court is aware of, and when tidbits are let drop, his life begins to unravel. He has a huge fight with his lover, stomps off and gets involved with his old teacher, Malkar, who uses him in a diabolical bit of conjuring which destroys the Virtu, a magical ward of sorts that protects the fortress of Mirador in the city of Melusine.

The other protagonist, Mildmay, is a cat burglar, who lives in Melusine, far away from the grandeur of the court. He gets hired by a woman to steal some jewelry from a former lover, gets involved with her, and when the city begins to self-destruct in the wake of the Virtu's destruction, she is murdered and he becomes a fugitive.

The consequences to Felix of the ritual Malkar uses is that he loses his magical powers, is branded a traitor, and goes (as far as anyone can tell) stark raving mad. The protector's counselors have him committed to an asylum for a time, and the passages describing his hallucinations and other symptoms of madness are quite vivid.

The pov switches back and forth from Felix to Mildmay and vice-versa rapidly, and it's sometimes tough to know who's telling the tale, if you're not paying attention. Despite my usual dislike of multiple povs, this worked quite well as done by Monette, and I got caught up with actually caring what happens to them.

This one was like a good cup of coffee, dark and rich.

1 comment:

Jen said...

Nice review! I should re-read this one. I met Sarah Monette once, and she was very cool (as I expected her to be) :)