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Melusine (Doctrine of Labyrinths #1)

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  2,938 ratings  ·  290 reviews
Mélusine — a city of secrets and lies, pleasure and pain, magic and corruption — and destinies lost and found.

Felix Harrowgate is a dashing, highly respected wizard. But his aristocratic peers don't know his dark past — how his abusive former master enslaved him, body and soul, and trained him to pass as a nobleman. Within the walls of the Mirador — Melusine's citadel of
Mass Market Paperback, 477 pages
Published June 27th 2006 by Ace (first published June 27th 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 10, 2007 Sarah rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 'Fraid I wouldn't, unless it improves dramatically.
Shelves: abandoned
Hrm. A hundred pages into this novel, I had to come back here to see if my friend's review was really is as glowing as I remembered it to be. I'm baffled.

I'm struggling to keep interested in this book. This is a poorly-explained world, where magical and social elements are introduced in passing, but not fleshed out; the book itself is structured with a bizarrely flip-flopping POV, reminiscent of a soap opera, which changes so frequently as to prevent me from getting interesting in either of the
Ben Babcock
Mélusine suffers from two narrators: Felix Harrowgate and Mildmay the Fox. I say “suffers” because Monette switches between the two perspectives more frequently than Bill Nye drops mad science truth. Each chapter is about thirty or fifty pages in this paperback edition, but perspective can happen as often as once every page. Sometimes the characters barely get a few paragraphs in before Monette switches to the other narrator. Consequently, instead of feeling like I’m watching two separate storie ...more
I picked this book up on a recommendation from one of my favorite authors - Charlaine Harris - and I wasn't disappointed. Sarah Monette does a marvelous job pulling us into this new world. For instance, if the names she gives to months sound oddly familiar, it's because they are borrowed from the French Revolution's republican calendar system. This deft touch, in addition to many other captivating details, creates an alternate universe with a historical past that is both familiar and exotic. Hal ...more
Fantasy. Something's rotten in Melusine and the Virtu, a collection of spells that protects the city's wizards, has been destroyed, sending the city into disorder. The story's told by two narrators: Felix -- wizard, drama queen, perpetual victim -- and Mildmay -- thief for hire, regular guy, and a hundred times less whiny than Felix. I hated Felix. I spent most of the book wishing he'd shut up and go away. He's a big wet blanket, cowardly and useless, and would be perfectly at home in a bad piec ...more
Mélusine 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 co ...more
This review seems full of nothing but criticism, so I'll frame it by saying that I didn't hate it, I actually enjoyed it, though you might not figure out why. Monette's involvement in recent blog affairs, plus her online present and most peeps in my environs feeling they have to read this book, made me hesitant to list it at all.

Lots of the genre-usual invented names right from the start, perhaps not overly much compared to other fantasy books, but still more than I think necessary, ever. The sp
While reading this book, I started to think of it as a whimsical runner in a marathon. Sometimes it jogged, sometimes it sprinted, sometimes it stopped to chase butterflies in the field, but surprisingly, it never fell on its face, and when it frolicked gaily (fear my puniness) across the finish line, it still managed to look fabulous, so it gets four stars.

Metaphors aside, I know this book is part of a four-book series, but I agree with others reviewers on this site in that it felt like a lot o
What a fantastic book! It took me at least a couple of hundred pages to get into the story and start to care for Felix and Mildmay, but then all of a sudden I couldn't put it down and desperately wanted things to get easier for the both of them. I've just started book 2, The Virtu, and also bought the other 2 books in the series, I can't wait to get stuck in!
First Second Books
I’m finding this book especially interesting because the main character gets driven insane in the first quarter – and then remains one of the narrators for the rest of the book. But even though he’s insane, he’s still understandable – it’s like reading the world at a slant. I find it fascinating when you can get that across through writing style and description.
After reading a very mixed bag of reviews, I've come to the conclusion that Melusine (and the whole Doctrine of Labyrinths) are books you either love or hate, with very little room in the middle. I confess I personally tend towards the former. The terminology is difficult to grapple with at first, because the style of narration leaves little room for explanation of the plethora of colloquialisms peppered throughout the novel. However, if you bear with it, it does become much easier to understand ...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Mar 13, 2010 Shannon (Giraffe Days) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Shannon (Giraffe Days) by: Kathryn
Shelves: fantasy, 2010
I haven't been reading nearly as much Fantasy as I used to (there was a time when it was ALL I'd read, excluding books for school or uni), but I have quite a few (understatement) on my shelves, unread. This one was recommended by a friend who had several sleepless nights in a row while she tore through all four books. Hard to ignore a rec like that! I know people have complaints about this book, but I felt like my faith in Fantasy was rekindled after reading this.

In the city of Mélusine, in Mara
Aug 23, 2007 Eviltwinjen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fantasy fans, slash fans, tortured protagonist fans
Shelves: fantasy
Dark, tortured fantasy fans, rejoice! Sarah Monette is here for you with a stellar new world, a wonderfully academic vision of magic (lots of different schools of thought, all of which think the others are nuts), obnoxious aristocrats, thieves, and two compelling protagonists who are destined to have a long, volatile, satisfying relationship.

Felix Harrowgate was plucked from the slums by Malkar, a powerful wizard (and an incredible bastard) and trained to pass as an aristocrat. On the night his
Rating: 3.5 stars

Melusine is a very difficult book to review, especially for a M/M book blog. As a high fantasy adventure, I would say this book is top-notch. As a M/M romance, I would give it a two thumbs…down. But regardless of how one would tag this story, my recommendation is this: patience.

Taking place in a fantasy world, the book follows two different characters in their own respective and separate yet slowly intertwining, plots. Felix is a powerful wizard of Melusine, with a past that he
Kaje Harper
This is a wonderfully imaginative fantasy, beautifully written and realized. Although one main character is gay, the other is not, and this is not a romance. That doesn't mean it isn't infused with a stubborn, heartfelt, irritated, immovable commitment on Mildmay's part. And a flashy, extravagant, mind-damaged, egotistical, painfully-undermined caring on Felix's part. The relationship between these two men, as much as the progression of the plot and their individual characters, keep the reader g ...more
This review should probably have accompanied a 5 star rating but it does not, intentionally so.

Had this been an entertainment-only attempt, I could write line after line with praises about the clever plotting, the fine, elegant writing, the accurate characterization, the originality of the setting, etc. etc. etc. This IS a good book, after all, a quality fantasy you might want to cherish (and read only when you are in the right mood: to enjoy it you need more than the standard attention).

Read while traveling. I didn't have a good reading environment for enjoying this until midway through, and then I was hooked. I need to reread the first half at least, though. I have a feeling I missed some important details.


Okay, I've reread enough to write a coherent review.

Mélusine was a much more intense, disturbing, and violent book than I was prepared for, and so reading it was in some places extremely disturbing. But if you don't get squicked by rape, torture, mindfucks, or insanity, t
So Felix is a wizard who’s driven mad when his evil master uses him to destroy a powerful magical thingy. Mildmay is a thief/assassin who gets hired by another wizard to track down Felix, for complicated and magical reasons. When Felix and Mildmay finally meet up they discover (view spoiler). Mildmay eventually ends up manhandling the crazy Felix halfway across the world to find a cure for him.

I wasn’t impressed with the way the characters were introduc
(re-posted from

How is it fair that books like, well, I don’t think I need to name any names, I’m sure we can all think of at least one book that defies all laws of good writing and yet still has a huge fanbase. So how is it that books like that, with their sparkling vampires and their last suppers get printed and reprinted and reprinted again, while excellent books like Sarah Monette’s Melusine go out of print?

I had one hell of a time tracking this book down,
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I really liked this book (so much so that I picked up the second book the day after I finished the first one).

As with any book that has constantly alternating points of view, I found it distracting at first but eventually I was able to settle into it. (It's a personal preference. It works for some people and not for others). The world is an interesting place, though I think the nonstandard measurement of time is unnecessary and irritating.

I did not guess the connection between Mildmay and Feli
You have to be in a certain mood for Monette's writing. It is fantasy, with mostly unlikable characters and hard to follow and unexplained lingo and terminology, and it begins with a brutal homosexual rape. You have to be okay with detailed sex scenes both homo- and hetero-sexual. However, the author's imagination is incredible. The tension of the plot, the deep psychological journey into madness and out again, and the exploration of love of the kinds of love not normally used as a major theme i ...more
Jennifer Estep
I'd seen a lot of positive reviews for this book, so I decided to try it. I have to say that I was disappointed. The premise is interesting enough -- the book follows, Felix, a powerful wizard, and Mildmay, a cat burglar, in the city of Melusine. Their stories start to intertwine after Felix's old master uses Felix's magic to weaken the city, driving the young wizard mad in the process. The book shifts between Felix's insane point of view and Mildmay's practical one. I thought Mildmay was a much ...more
Jessica Zoop
I really enjoyed this book. The world building, character development, storytelling, and descriptions of magic (from both the wizards & the muggles)all are satisfying and engrossing. The story stands on its own reasonably well, but you'll get a more satisfying sense of closure if you read the sequel, The Virtu.

If you liked it as much as I did, hunt down the sequel and read it immediately. I waited too long and didn't remember enough of the finer details to enjoy it as much as I could have.
It took me forever to read this, really. Mélusine is a extremely long book and annoying too. The text flow is ok, but the book is so jammed with info. There's really no pauses or anything, and it feels like you're reading heavy stuff that makes you drown. The plot is surely interesting, but somehow the POV changes don't work. The transitions between POVs are tenuous at best and even the style varies in between the narrator's own parts. The problem is that nothing really happens in the book. Afte ...more
Fairly terrible.

I don't think there's anything to really redeem this.

First of all, the world-building; there's info dump all over the place, and every time it is never explained properly (if at all). There are two types of ways fantasy books sometimes get this wrong: either everything is explained in minute detail, which can create a great world but sacrifices pace and plot, or the aforementioned info dump where it expects that reader gets a sense of the world by implicitly assuming he/she knows
I was very excited when I started reading Melusine . Reviews were generally quite good and the summary was interesting.

When I read the prologue, I was a little surprised by the relative.. childishness of the writing. Writers do this sometimes, have the narrator speak as though talking out loud. And this is fine, except that the reader is reading and it comes off as uneducated. I prefer a narrator that formulates complex sentences and, in most cases, doesn't address the reader. But I still had
I really wanted to like this book, but Felix is a really annoying character. Mildmay was a thousand times more interesting. I disliked the fact that the book is in 1st person POV and switches between two characters. That is very amateur writing. I have a hard time reading 1st person POV when I think the character (Felix) is a pathetic and irrational person. Felix has a lover who finds out about his shameful past. Disgraced, Felix runs off to find one of his old lovers for drugs and sex (because ...more
What a trainwreck.

One of the two main protagonists, Felix, is an utter embarrassment as a character. He spends the majority of the book weeping, falling to his knees, and having fits of hysterics. He has a cliched Sad Past and a fall from grace due to its exposure at the very start of the book. (oh, and of course the weepy, hysterical, self-absorbed character is gay. Thanks, author, for your shitty promoting of stereotypes) We have absolutely no perspective of him "before," as a sane individual
What an interesting and impressive book. Not perfect, but impressive in several ways.

This book does a great job of giving life to the experience of madness, and also the trials of having to take care of a madman. Neither experience is any fun, of course, and although it's tempting to pity both the patient and the caretaker and admire them for their noble suffering, it's also important to remember that neither one of them is going to be perfect. I loved the way that Monette presented both the pr
R.L. Shephard
May 27, 2011 R.L. Shephard rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: dark fantasy fans, M/M fans, abused protagonist fans
Shelves: favorites
I was recommended this book by a friend, who admitted up front that it used some strange terms (molly = gay, janus = bisexual, just for example), and some of the names are really out there. However, we both enjoyed books with a suffering protagonist, and she said this had the motherload. She seriously was not kidding.

One thing I did not realize when I started this book was that it was the first in a series of four. I was pleasantly surprised to find the next two books at the library after I'd re
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Goodreads Librari...: Edition field used to list cover artist 2 15 Jul 02, 2013 06:42PM  
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My pseudonym is Katherine Addison. Katherine reviews nonfiction. Sarah reviews fiction. Fair warning: I read very little fiction these days.

I was born and raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of the secret cities of the Manhattan Project. I studied English and Classics in college, and have gone on to get my M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature. My first four novels were published by Ace Books. I h
More about Sarah Monette...

Other Books in the Series

Doctrine of Labyrinths (4 books)
  • The Virtu (Doctrine of Labyrinths, #2)
  • The Mirador (Doctrine of Labyrinths, #3)
  • Corambis (Doctrine of Labyrinths, #4)
The Virtu (Doctrine of Labyrinths, #2) A Companion to Wolves (Iskryne World, #1) The Mirador (Doctrine of Labyrinths, #3) Corambis (Doctrine of Labyrinths, #4) The Bone Key: The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison Booth

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“Consider the stars. Among them are no passions, no wars. They know neither love nor hatred. Did man but emulate the stars, would not his soul become clear and radiant as they are? But man's spirit draws him like a moth to the ephemera of this world, and in their heat he is consumed entire.” 13 likes
“Sacred bleeding fuck,” I said, because, I mean its one thing to know your crazy hocus brother sees ghosts, and a whole different thing when you find out they’re telling him bedtime stories.” 6 likes
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