R.L. Shephard's Reviews > Mélusine

Mélusine by Sarah Monette
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's review
May 27, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: favorites
Recommended for: dark fantasy fans, M/M fans, abused protagonist fans
I own a copy

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 read it through, which was a good thing because Melusine ends on a rather abrupt note, with the characters far from home and in no state to get back any time soon.

A lot of the book is completely over-the-top. Felix is a blatant attempt at a half-failed Mary Sue, with many of the same trappings. If you can keep that in mind, and get past the wall of sheer asshole, I find him a thoroughly enjoyable character - in the first book, at least, where his madness and moments of lucidity make for a great contrast to Mildmay's point of view.

By far, my favorite character in this book and the series, as with many people, is Mildmay. He's incredibly observant and his colorful language makes for a fascinating read. Many, many people were put off by Mildmay's alternate takes on counting (base seven, of all things) and calender systems, but this is primarily a historical fantasy, and such forms were actually used by the lower classes at one point, if I can remember correctly, in France. You do eventually get used to it, and by the time I'd read the third book (within a week of reading the first one, mind), I was able to easily convert base seven to base ten.

And that's another thing that lends itself well to this world. Melusine seems so similar to a revolutionary-period France with magic dashed in, that it's easy to imagine their trek eastward as a journey across Europe.

Overall, this book definitely isn't for everyone. The narrative switches, and reasonably often (less so later on), which can throw a lot of people who aren't interested in one or another character. But if you do start reading it, don't give up on it until you've managed to finish it. Stopping partway through won't get you a good objective on the book - you may love it and look forward to the next in the series (Virtu and Mirador were by far my favorites), or you might still absolutely hate it. Which is fine, but at least give it a proper read before dismissing it to the trash pile :)
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