Melusine (Doctrine of Labyrinths, #1)
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Melusine (Doctrine of Labyrinths #1)

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  2,382 ratings  ·  244 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...more
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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Sarah
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...more
Valerie
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
Punk
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
Margaret
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
Ashley
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...more
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
Bec
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...more
_inbetween_
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...more
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.
sage
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...more
Eviltwinjen
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...more
Furio
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).

Problem...more
Jamie
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...more
Schnaucl
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...more
Megan
(re-posted from http://theturnedbrain.blogspot.com/)

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,...more
Contrarius
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...more
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...more
Beth
This book reminded me of picking at a scab, watching it bleed with horrified fascination, and then feeling compelled to pick at it further, until your fingers are bloody and you’ve got a gaping wound. There’s so much pain and fear and blind horror and regression. There’s a pervasive sense of doom as well, an embedded instinctive knowledge that seems to direct the book toward only dark places with no hope or redemption in sight.

Melusine is a bit predictable at certain points – the red hair especi...more
Dabs
I really, really wanted to like this book more than I did. I know it's the first of four, and as such, I'm guessing it's the beginning of the story. So okay, that explains the slow movement of the plot and the feeling of being a lot of setup. I'm good with that. In theory.

What I'm not so good with is the characters. Holy crap, it feels like Monette just wanted a couple of tragic, broken woobies on which to hang a tragic, angsty story. I'll freely admit that I'm not interested in angst for its ow...more
Elfscribe
Is it possible to admire a book and yet not like it very much? I greatly appreciated the invented world of Melusine and was fascinated with the main characters and yet found the book flawed in a number of ways. This is a world rich with invention: an underworld like Dicken's London full of thieves, pimps, prostitutes, and murderers, a ruling class of wizards, labyrinthine streets and dark alleys, many lands of different cultures, a sense of history, and ingenious names.

I appreciated the differe...more
Theresa
I came thisclose to putting this book before finishing 50 pages of it. The only thing that kept me from donating it to Goodwill was one of the two main characters, Mildmay. Mildmay starts the book off before the first chapter in the Introduction… I can tell you that Mildmay had me hooked, if not to the story, to his character at that point. But more on him in a moment…

Why did I almost put this book down?

There is a m/m rape scene that turned my stomach. I do not like reading rape scenes and read...more
Kim
Jul 28, 2008 Kim rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: fans of Ellen Kushner or Jacqueline Carey,
Shelves: fantasy
This book is one part terrific novel, and one part huh? I definitely recommend you have the sequel, The Virtu on hand when you read it, because this is one of those books that feels like it was arbitrarily split in half. Although, honestly, there are ends left hanging even when you read both books, and now that I'm reading the third one, I'm still not certain they will be tied off. I found the world of Melusine to be gorgeously conceived and complex to the point of utter confusion---the calendri...more
Diane
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
Gail
I really liked this book. The two main characters are utterly different, and it takes a long time for the connection between their two stories to show up, and some really, seriously horrible things happen to them--but it has a hopeful ending. One character--Mildmay the Fox--is a scarred thief who loves stories, but can't read. The other--Felix Harrowgate--is a brilliant wizard--a "hocus" in the local slang. Both of them have been cruelly taken advantage of--and the cruelty isn't over. It can be...more
Christine (AR)
Felix is possessed and weepy while Mildmay plays the Artful Dodger and they are on the run while very bad things are happening in... whatever the name of this book's world is.

The fact that I just finished this and can't remember what Monette called her world is one of the problems I had with the book -- I didn't get enough of a sense of place, here, and was never clear on the power structure of the society. I was never sure who the main characters were running from. Or to, for that matter.

Anoth...more
K.
I have a deep and intense dislike of first-person narrative. At some point in my life I began to associate that particular writing-tense with BAD.

Monette disrupts my intense hatred with her interesting narrators and lovely world.

I would not recommend this particular story to everyone. Those that I would dub my 'advanced level readers' might find some of the plot contrived, or one of the main voices a pain-in-the-ass to read.

However, that said, the language is good, the little intricacies of th...more
K T
Mar 06, 2009 K T rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K T by: Kendrawesome
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lola
I want to bitch slap them both....good fantasy, annoying weak ass character...holy shit.....

and the two main character doesn't meet until 200 pages into the story...yeah... -_- that is 200 pages of background information. Be prepare to have dozens of useless character minor and major coming out and disappearing again...

Felix: Oh noes, the monsters are getting me. I cannot say anything useful. I can't even answer a single question.

This literally goes on for 200 pages....
Ruth
I really love this book. I found myself totally drawn into the storyline and characters. Mildmay was my favourite POV character but I also really enjoyed Felix as well.

I have read all four books in the series and although 'The Virtu' is probably my favourite, this is a very close second.

Highly recommended to anyone to enjoys more character focused works.

Originally read 21/01/11

Re-read 08/01/12
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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 novels are published by Ace Books; I also have a collaboration with Elizabeth Bear, A Companion to Wolves, from Tor. My short stories have appeared in lots of different places, including Lady...more
More about Sarah Monette...
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

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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
“Well fuck me sideways 'til I cry” 5 likes
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