In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina's life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father's fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie).
When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger--the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh--Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city's dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice--protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.
Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris's criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.
Kester Grant is a British-Mauritian writer of color. She was born in London, grew up between the UK, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the tropical island paradise of Mauritius. As a wanton nomad she and her husband are unsure which country they currently reside in but they can generally be found surrounded by their fiendish pack of cats and dogs.
I enjoyed this quite a bit and I can definitely see potential in where this series could be heading. I know that a lot of people go into this book thinking they're going to get Six of Crows, but you're going to be disappointed if you do. Sure there are similarities, but it's quite different in terms of tone and characters. I wasn't huge on the romance, but no surprise there. I did love the setting though and the overall direction of the story has me intrigued as to where things could go. I can't highly recommend this one necessarily, but overall it wasn't too shabby!
In 1828-Paris, following the failed revolution, the city is divided between the royal court and nine criminal guilds.
Our protagonist, Nina Thénardier, is a young member of the Thieves Guild. She has spent her life flying under the radar; a handy skill for a thief.
After her abusive father sells her older sister to the Master of Flesh, known as the Tiger, Nina desperately wants to save her, but never gets the opportunity.
While living on the streets, Nina gains a new little sister, the beautiful, Ettie.
Unfortunately, Ettie is such a pretty girl, she becomes dangerous to be around, for the Tiger has set his sights on her.
Nina then dedicates the majority of her time to keeping Ettie out of the monster's hands. She has to get creative and make some unsavory allies, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the young girl safe.
The Court of Miracles is a fast-paced romp through a fantastical and historical Paris.
The backdrop was dirt, grim, danger and intrigue. Nina's world is definitely a dangerous one, but she throws herself full force into the game of the underground.
Although Nina seems extremely bold, I think it was more that she had nothing to lose. Ettie was literally her only connection in the entire world.
While some aspects of this were interesting, there was something about the flow that was off for me.
I felt like the structure was: set scene, problem, resolution, next scene, problem, resolution, next scene. It just had a choppy quality to it, in my opinion.
I'm probably not explaining this correctly, but to me, it lacked a smooth narrative flow.
In addition to that, I didn't have a good hold over time in this story. When it started, Nina was very, very young, but at the end, she's not.
There was one point where I think a couple of years had passed, but it wasn't entirely clear. I felt like time was progressing along rapidly, but I had no idea how much time between different sections.
I think it is important to point out that I have never read Les Miserables, or watched any movie or television adaptations. Therefore, I cannot comment on this story as a reimagining of that tale.
There were moments where I felt like I had no idea what was going on. I wonder if I would have gotten a lot more out of it if I had read the original source material?
Overall, I did think this was a fun story. I enjoyed the different criminal guilds and the dynamics between them. I found that extremely interesting.
I would absolutely consider picking up the next book in the series. I'm not sure where this story can go from here, but Kester Grant is clearly very imaginative, so I trust they'll figure it out.
Thank you so much to the publisher, Knopf Young Readers, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity!
i originally had this at a 4 because its a fun story, easy to read, and was an overall enjoyable reading experience; but after a day or two of thinking, some things are bothering me.
in hindsight, nothing about this feels original. its as if KG took different components from different sources (les mis - character names, the bone season - plot, history - world building) and then put them into one book. i dont see anything unique on these pages.
also, im not very knowledgable about history, which is why historical inaccuracies never bother me (because im usually none the wiser), but even i know fabergé made eggs for the russian royal family, not the french, and it wasnt even around at the time this story takes place! it just shows a real lack of effort and fact checking on both the author and editors end, which is really disappointing.
and whats the deal with the les mis names? i could understand it if this was a retelling, but its not. the only things taken from the story are the names and a really awkward mention of a song. it just doesnt add anything to the story, so why include it?? if KG had used her own character names, this would have felt more like an original story.
again, i want to mention that none of this impacted my reading experience in the moment - i actually quite liked the story. these are just things i thought about afterwards that made me think a little less of the story and the author. so i guess its really just me being picky/too critical.
Oh, I genuinely don't think I've ever been more disappointed in my life. For reference, I'm a huge, huge fan of Les Miserables--own five copies of the book, four different translations, have watched several adaptations, know every word of the musical, and was heavily into the fandom c. 2013, am planning to get a tattoo in Victor Hugo's handwriting, etc, etc. And I was so interested in the premise--Six of Crows is the other thing I'm obsessed with. This book ... ain't it. This book is the opposite of what I wanted from a Les Mis retelling. This book suffers from over-romanticizing Eponine's character arc while ignoring everything else about Les Miserables, and it worked out very poorly.
My biggest problem was with the characters. This book utterly annihilates the character of anyone who isn't Nina while raising Nina to an impossible prodigy, involved in everything, and whom everyone loves. Nina is an incredible thief, she's not pretty but she has THREE love interests, the dauphin of France is okay with her stealing a crown jewel off of him ... Moreover, for a book that claims to be a retelling of the plot of Les Mis, which it is, barely, it doesn't even get some of the characters right! Marius, who is so important as to HAVE THE THIRD BOOK NAMED AFTER HIM, is nowhere to be seen, which utterly baffled me until I read the acknowledgements and found out the author hates Marius. Which. Okay. Each to her own, I guess, but I think that it was a very poor decision that takes a lot of skeleton of Les Miserables away--like, it feels very disingenuous to cut out an entire character who interacts most with Eponine out? MARIUS HAS VALUE, PEOPLE. This also ricochets to Cosette's character, Ettie. Ettie (Cosette) was also destroyed--turned from a strong, kind young woman to a whiny, timid child who cannot exist on her own and needs Nina to protect her at all times. Gavroche, existed, but he wasn't Eponine's brother for some reason, which is another utterly baffling thing to me, and I can't see a reason why?
Minor characters were even more one-dimensional than they usually are, which, believe me, is saying something. Grantaire (my fave) was reduced to the Drunk One, Montparnasse the Stabby One, St. Juste the Revolutionary One. I wouldn't have minded the Valjean and Javert thing going on in the background, but Valjean was completely mischaracterized as well. Javert is a woman, which is cool and all, but it just seems to be to show that Javert and Valjean were romantically involved at some point in the past, and I'm cool and all with Valvert, but it just seems ... SUUUUUPER off-base to make Javert a woman FOR THAT REASON. Like, either omit the Valvert thing, which clearly wasn't a Thing in the Brick so would change nothing, or just ... don't ... do That. Honestly, I'd be happier if most of these characters were simply omitted, or if they were original characters, because the characterization is that off-base.
Perhaps my greatest frustration was the forced romantic interest between St. Juste (Enjolras) and Nina. Everybody comments on it. EVERYBODY. And it's so shoved in the reader's face. Ettie constantly brings up how handsome St. Juste is and how he's in love with Nina, and how they'd be so cute together, but they don't have any chemistry??? I also think it's worth mentioning that Enjolras, who St. Juste is based off of, is very commonly read as gay. I don't want to discredit other interpretations, but combined with genderbending Javert for a past relationship with Valjean, it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. It is 2020. Let gay people exist??
The worldbuilding had me confused--it's interesting lore, set after the French Revolution failed, but it's not very well explained how it did and the alternate history seems very flimsy. In addition, the underworld of Paris, while interesting, just had me lost on how it tied in with the alternate history. I also found it very difficult to follow the thread of the plot, because it time skips so much, and when we pick up the thread again it's so incredibly jarring.
Also, one of my greatest pet peeves in Les Mis retellings (and frankly, fanfiction) is when the authors quote the musical. There is a scene where St. Juste sings "A Little Fall of Rain". Really.
For a book that claims to be a retelling of Les Miserables, it has a very poor grasp on all of the characters, and the Eponine worship very, very much shows, as Eponine is glorified to the detriment of the plot, the other characters, and the integrity of the original novel. If y'all are looking for a fun YA retelling of Les Miserables, I'd highly recommend Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell, which despite being set in space and has a completely different plot feels a lot more accurate to the original story. or go read world ain't ready on ao3
and lo, i am disappointed once more. what a cold, hard world we live in.
it wasn't bad, it's just okay, and somehow that's worse. if it was bad i could take the piss out of it with wild glee. but i can't.
there were a lot of timeskips that seemed jerky and uncoordinated, like me after a few wines, and especially in the first half the narrative didn't seem to flow very well. nina was a good character, pretty well-rounded, but she seemed to get out of scrapes and conflict a bit too easily for my taste.
i'm glad there wasn't an overt Pointless Romance, except it's clear that any boy around her age who goes within 3.4 miles of her is cast as a love interest: montparnasse, st juste and the dauphin. it's a little bit tiring, but at least she didn't really care that much about romance otherwise i'd have been driven up the wall.
there were a couple of historical inaccuracies that did drive me a little bit up the wall, though. nothing too serious, and only throwaway lines really but still: - it's mentioned that the prince had a whipping boy, even though they're pretty much entirely a historical myth, and just seems like a cheap shot at Making The Nobles Evil - speaking of Making The Nobles Evil, the nobles are... all evil. except the prince because of course. - faberge eggs are mentioned, despite them being made for the russian royal family, and despite faberge not being alive at this point in time.
also, this isn't historical, but still annoying: - lady corday's hypnotism. seeing as there isn't a hint of fantasy anywhere else, it seems a lot like a diabolus ex machina.
basically... it was a let down. it wasn't horrific, but it was a disappointment.
not a spoiler, just my pre-reading ramblings i don't want to spam this review with:
I received this complimentary ARC from the publisher, courtesy of NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
I don't know what I expected going into this, but it wasn't this. While the synopsis referenced la Revolution Française being unsuccessful, I still thought that it'd be a Les Misérables retelling from how it was pitched. That's not really what this was. Rather, it was an alternate historical book with multiple inaccuracies. I didn't find it particularly compelling either way, nor did it bring something revolutionary or original to the YA genre.
I also wasn't too keen on THREE potential love interests. It's rather tiring that female protagonists can't seem to be friendly with male characters without romantic feelings being involved. This made it feel very Throne of Glass-esque to me and come on, it's 2020. Time to move on from these tropes.
This wasn't a poor book by any means, but I don't think that I'll be continuing on with this series.
I read this in January 2021 and did not mark it as read or review it for six months, because I did not even know what to say to encapsulate this reading experience.
Court of Miracles is a Les-Miserables retelling following Nina (Eponine), a thief known as the Black Cat at a court in 1850s France. Under the gaze of Tomasis of the Guild of Thieves, she fights to protect first her sister Amelda and later her adopted sister Ettie (Cosette) from Thenardier, her father, and the Tiger, an evil lord.
Overall, I think this book is really pulling out the epic highs and lows of YA fantasy. There’s a lot going on here that I really liked. The vibes perhaps surpass almost anything else; when leaning into atmosphere, Court of Miracles gets it right. At its finer moments, I was reminded of The Gilded Wolves. The bond between Nina and Ettie is sweet and easy to get invested in. I enjoyed the writing of Tomasis, who’s often hard to pin down in a compelling way. Primarily, though, the appeal of this book is in Nina. Nina’s schemes are often really strong and well thought out, and her inner monologue is compelling enough that it’s hard not to root for her. She is genuinely so much fun, the ideal girlboss, and I loved watching her schemes come together. SPOILER:
However, some elements left a lot to be desired. The politics of this novel are fairly overcomplicated as compared to what matters and some of them end up being super irrelevant. Here is what I remember from this book which I read a year ago and also my fairly confused notes: SPOILER: …I’m not even going to lie, I was just not invested enough in any of this to really understand it. That’s because the first half of this book is all buildup, with the actual focus of the novel—the main plot goal—coming into play only during part four, at around 45%. While these first three sections are not awful, they completely lack aim, while the fourth and final section has a clear and fulfilling goal. Had this entire book been the same quality as the last fourth, I think I would be genuinely obsessed with this series. I wondered almost whether the last 1-3 parts could be better purposed as an extended flashback, woven in throughout the book. I also wondered if they might be better cut down.
Oh, and The Dauphine and St Juste, aka Enjorlas, both love Nina. And for what? They don’t even know about her girlbossery. I'm not even that much of a love triangle hater, but what is the point of this? It's not interesting and it does nothing for Nina's development.
Let’s discuss the adaptational bent of this novel. I have not actually read Les Mis, first of all, but as a problematic theater kid, I do know the plot. The adaptational take of this novel is a reimagining of Les Mis (A) from Eponine’s perspective and (B) in which Eponine is a girlboss who hates her father and it's also a fantasy world. On a fundamental level, I do think this is a fun take. Other characters also appear, of course; St Juste is sort of a weird combination of Marius and Enjorlas, except it sort of seems like he got the Enjorlas personality and then Marius just got cut which is hilarious. Grantaire is also there. The long and short of it is this is not an exact retelling and you should not read it expecting such.
Adaptationally, however, there is one element of this book that haunts me. And not in a good way. First of all, I want to know who asked for Jean Valjean and Javert genderswap m/f. Who has ever looked at Les Miserables and said you know what I wish? I wish Javert were a woman so that she could kiss Jean Valjean. Who’s asking for them to kiss at all? And if the author is brave and bold enough to raise her hand and admit she, yes, she was asking for them to kiss, why not just leave them as men? I don’t mean this in a why are we putting women in this book way—why are we adding straight people to this book? Weren’t there enough? Didn’t we hit the quota? I don’t know how to explain how little I could take this seriously. I can’t believe I'm expected to take this seriously.
So… overall. Court of Miracles is certainly a book of all time. I will remember it primarily for Nina’s compelling, interesting schemes, and for the sheer secondhand embarrassment I experienced while reading a Jean Valjean/Javert m/f genderswap au. If this sounds like something you’ll find compelling… go for it. If it does not... do not.
I was intrigued to see just how this Les Miserable meets The Jungle Book meets Six of Crows meets Throne of Glass mash up was going to work, but, you know what, I think it pulled it off!
Below the surface of the polished streets of France lies a seething underbelly of crooks, thieves, beggars, and murderers. Despite the anarchic pastimes of those who reside there, guilds organise and lord rules, regulations are abided by, and harsh punishments enacted on those who break their codes of lawless honour. These are inconsequential to Nina, the Little Cat burglar and one of the most renowned weapon in the Thieves' Guild's arsenal. Her lifelong goal has been to save her long-lost sister from a life of enforced prostitution, and now, to save a new sister who may soon succumb to the very same fate.
This was such an extraordinarily complex story-line that brought in many of my favourite fantasy tropes and was reminiscent of so many beloved works of fiction, and yet still maintained it's own sense of unique brilliance. Aspects occurred early on in the novel that had me unable to conceive how the remainder would play out, and scenes of actions were littered throughout to ensure there was never a pause in the pacing or a stall in the tension that dominated all events.
There was so much to explore, both in the forefront and backdrop of the scenes, and I longed to linger in every hidden cranny that this city kept hidden from its upper-class inhabitants. The world below was just as rich and diverse as the streets above and Grant kept me enraptured with her vivid depictions of the two.
Whilst the Parisian setting felt rich and textured, the ongoing revolution created tragic scenery that complicated and dissected the expected format of the novel. It was interesting to see how this historical occurrence impacted these fictional characters and interplay of history and fantasy was endlessly fascinating to explore.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Kester Grant, and the publisher, Harper Voyager, for this opportunity.
Aprendan de mis errores y no se dejen seducir por portadas bonitas en los libros, de verdad, porque vaya decepción me he llevado con este libro.
Desde el principio nos prometen que The Court of Miracles seguirá una historia súper emocionante en un París reimaginado en el que la Revolución Francesa fracasó y ahora quienes realmente llevan las riendas de la ciudad son nueve gremios criminales. Sí, la realeza existe, pero son los adornos de un palacio y poco más. Además, nos presentan a Nina, una chica que estará dispuesta a absolutamente todo con tal de salvar a su hermana de las garras de uno de los hombres más peligrosos de los gremios.
Y todo suena genial… hasta que de verdad lees el libro. ¿Construcción de personajes? ¿Qué es eso? Kester Grant crea a Nina como una chica que lo puede absolutamente todo. Nada es imposible para ella y es hábil en todo lo que le pongas en frente. Sí, cuando es pequeña no logra defender a su hermana, pero cuando crece parece que fuera una mujer invencible. Y no hay ningún tipo de desarrollo o contexto que apoyara eso, así que no me lo creí en ningún punto de la historia. Es más, Nina como personaje era desesperante.
¿Y la historia en sí misma? La verdad es que me aburrió un montón. A pesar de que tenemos a nueve gremios en un París diferentísimo al que conocemos históricamente es imposible conectarse con la ambientación, con su funcionamiento y, mucho menos, con los miembros de cada organización. Es que, en el fondo, siento que Kester Grant usó a los personajes como simples fichas que podían aparecer a su conveniencia en puntos de la trama. ¿Por qué estaba equis persona allí? Ah, ni idea, sólo se materializó de la nada para que el libro pudiera continuar. Y así no funcionan las cosas.
Del romance… es que ni siquiera voy a hablar del romance. Madre mía, vaya lío tan mal llevado. Nina tiene TRES intereses amorosos, TRES. Y, oye, no digo que esté mal, pero lo que pido es que al menos los personajes se distingan, que sepamos por qué están atraídos por Nina, cuáles son sus posibilidades, sus sentimientos, etc. Pero, de nuevo, nada. Sólo están allí quizá para cumplir con la cuota y poder decir que hay “algo” de amor en el libro. Pero no se engañen.
En fin, todo mal. Otra saga que abandonaré en el primer libro. Horror.
My favourite part of this book was The Court of Miracles itself, a criminal underworld thriving in 19th Century Paris amidst the June Rebellion. I found the political structure of the Court fascinating and enjoyed the exploration of the individual guilds we saw throughout the course of this novel, my favourite of course, being the assassin's guild.
I thought that the atmosphere was also well done, I enjoyed the glitz and glamour of the court alongside the more seedy and grimy elements of the underworld. Alongside this we also have glimpses of the lives of the common people during the June Rebellion, who were dying of starvation and illness. Overall, the atmosphere, setting and political aspects were my favourite elements throughout.
Where I feel this book was slightly lacking, is in the development of both characters and plot. Years were skipped over so that we could accelerate to the more interesting and relevant parts of the plot. However I found that crucial bonds were built in the years that the reader does not see and so I felt a disconnect between myself and the characters, I was being told that Eponine and Cosette were close, but I did not truly feel it.
In a lot of ways, especially throughout the first half of the book, I felt like the narrative was very episodic, and things came to Eponine too easily. Impossible tasks were posed to her, that she overcame in a handful of chapters and these elements of the book also felt like they served as a guide to the Court of Miracles as it seemed every mission was related to a different guild.
Overall I would recommend reading this. I enjoyed it a lot and can't wait to get my hands on the sequel, I just think with a little more development it could have been phenomenal and also held a lot of emotional impact.
“Do not cry for me, I am already dead." "No, not dead, the dead at least are free.”
It was okay, I guess, but not nearly as remarkable as I expect a book that's advertised as Six of Crows meets Les Mis, to be. It had its moments, which were a little more than a few and allowed me to speed through this despite it not being the book of the year, but I definitely didn't like this as much we I thought I would when I first added it to my tbr two years ago. There were, for example, weird time jumps that cut the timeline between chapters, and that weren't really clarified, so you'd start a new chapter with lots of confusion and a wtf. And not a positive one.
I also found it incredibly hard to relate to and understand Nina's character. I feel like she wasn't properly developed and I had the same problem with a far-fetched world building. I felt like I was always missing a piece of backstory and there were so many names and titles thrown at me it was impossible to keep up without further descriptions. I'll bypass the historical inaccuracies because I don't want to sound too picky, but I appreciate when an author puts effort into creating a believable world, and Grant's wasn't the case.
I'm not saying the entire book was a waste, because overall it was tolerable and the chapters aren't long; maybe it was wrongly and overly advertized, and that's a marketing problem, but it was definitely not the book I wanted and I'll forever be bitter about the fact that I was Les Mis-baited.
Step one if you want to read this book goes thus: ignore what it comps to. It is not like Les Mis (in fact, if you pretend like it isn’t attempting to be a retelling, you’ll probably have a better time of it than I did). It is most definitely not like Six of Crows (if someone could tell me where this comp came from, it would clear a lot up). And the whole Jungle Book aspect seems limited to the epigraphs selected for the beginning of each part.
In short, just pretend like it’s nothing to do with any of that.
If you can’t (and I definitely couldn’t), here’s what you have to look forward to.
What I found initially was that the plot was very confusing. For all that it’s supposedly a “retelling” of Les Mis, it picks and chooses when exactly it wishes to get close to the tale, and when it distances itself. Which would be fine, were I not expecting more of a retelling. But even when I put my expectations aside regarding that, it remained confusing. Primarily, I think, because there is no obvious overarching aim to the plot. Or, there is, but you realise it at the conclusion, and there’s been very little foreshadowing of it, or downright actually telling you what it is. So really, it just feels somewhat disjointed and aimlessly drifting.
And then there’s the fact I didn’t even realise it was a “what if the French Revolution never happened” kind of scenario. (That’s on me, sure, but in my defence, the blurb I initially read said nothing of the sort.) Because, really, there doesn’t seem that much about the worldbuilding to mark it out as historical fiction, let alone historical fiction set in 1820s France. Okay, so there’s mentions of the Dauphin, the Tuileries, etc etc, but historical worldbuilding has to be more than just place names, surely?
But perhaps the biggest travesty of this book is in its characters.
First, a positive note (I know, I’m surprised as well). The Eponine in this book is a damn sight better than the Eponine in the last retelling I read (damning with faint praise, I know, but still).
But beyond that, the characters are hardly recognisable as their namesakes. And they feel very much caricaturish versions of them. Each one can perhaps be summed up by a single characteristic of the original. For example, Enjolras is the revolutionary (and not much else), Grantaire is the drunkard, Montparnasse is the knife-wielding one, Eponine is an amazing thief – and these are the more recurrent characters of the lot. It is, quite simply, disappointing.
And don’t even get me started on the absolute cowardice involved in a creative decision that makes Javert a woman for the sole purpose of hinting that Valjean and Javert had previously had Something. It’s 20-fucking-20.
Final point (I think): this book had a tendency to randomly introduce characters and plot points that had not been mentioned before but are clearly important if they’re being brought up again. Case in point: Cosette. The whole first part of the book is about Eponine and Azelma, which makes sense because it provides the whole motivation behind Eponine’s plans later. No mention of a third child at this point. And then part two skips straight to where Eponine’s plan to trade Cosette for Azelma starts. As in, the point it becomes successful. Never having mentioned Cosette before now, never setting up the plan, nothing. It’s a six year time skip and, in doing that, all of the necessary information here has just been dumped.
The thing is, this keeps happening. A time skip occurs and suddenly the requisite character development has taken place and we haven’t seen a thing of it (like how Eponine is an amazing thief). If I’m supposed to root for various relationships, I need to see how they develop. It just doesn’t work otherwise.
Which reminds me of another point (sorry I lied about the last one being final. I have a lot of thoughts about this book). I would not necessarily mind the whole Eponine’s-unrequited-love-for-Marius being written out (side note: where is Marius?), but it’s written out and replaced with not one, not two, but three love interests. And it’s not just Montparnasse (like you might expect if you’ve read any fic), it’s the Dauphin too, and it’s Enjolras. Now, it took me a while to work out how old Eponine was in this book, but I figured it out. She first meets Enjolras at the age of 9. But for him to be, at this point, already involved in his activism and suchlike, and carrying a gun, you would expect him to be maybe 17 at minimum? (Or I would.) Which means, oh an 8 year age gap. And he knows her as well from the age of 15 to 18 (more time skips!). So that makes him a 26-year-old love interest. In fact, of all the love interests, maybe the Dauphin is the only one at all close in age to Eponine (and he’s a privileged dickhead so…).
It is, to be honest, less a love triangle/square/whatever shape you want, and more a love three-legged-monster-thing.
Oh and then there’s the little thing of all of Eponine’s plans (which we do not see actually planned, despite the book being in first person. Come to think of it, we see absolutely nothing planned throughout because a) Eponine is an amazing thief who can do everything on the fly and b) time skips, my old friends) coming off without a hitch. Even the most complex ones. Because plot.
”We are of one blood, thou and I, my sister, Bound by pack and Law the same, When hunger or sickness or war shall take you, I will sing the death song in your name.”
This was incredibly fast paced and a page turner. Set in the times of the a failed revolution along the streets of Paris, this story follows Nina as she goes head to head with the leaders of the criminal underworld in order to protect her sisters.
In the time of a failed revolution, those of the Wretched gather into guilds: thieves, assassins, dreamers, letters and others. All of these guilds form The Court of Miracles which run by its own law.
When Nina’s sister is sold to The Guild of Flesh Nina promises to do anything to get her sister back, even if it means becoming part of the Court of Miracles and leading her to the Master of the Guild of the Flesh where her sister was sold to.
Nina becomes one of the greatest things the Guilds have ever seen and in doing so she gets closer to finding out where her sister is and how to protect another from the Masters wrath.
So I don’t know anything to do with Les Mis (which this book is said to be inspired by)- the book is very long and I do not enjoy musicals. Saying that, the book did provide me with an excellent french underworld setting where everything appears bleak and hopeless.
Nina is cunning and clever, trying to worm her way into places and jobs which might bring her information over where her sister might be and a way to protect another. This in turn brings her face to other facets of the Guilds and their Masters, as well as Royalty and revolutionary students.
It was great to see all the plans formulate and how Nina achieves a goal, however, these occurred too quickly and seemed too overly simplistic and easy for thieving jobs that are described as “impossible”.
This did have a fantastic story of sisterhood, however, as there were time jumps I would’ve liked to see the development of the sisterhood between Nina and Cosette more.
In addition, while this book wasn’t a romance it did have some potential romantic elements. One of these I had issue with as it seemed this guy just loved her after meeting her on three separate occasions?? Also, with the time jumps, we weren’t able to see how Nina developed these friendships/relationships to get to where they are in the book.
I think if this book was longer I would’ve enjoyed it much more. I would’ve liked a deeper exploration of character relationships and how these were established, progress and grow (these occur between the time jumps so we are not witness to these moments). I would’ve also liked more distinct planning with more details for the thieving encounters as these seemed to happen so quickly and without difficulty.
This book was fast paced and kept me turning the pages. I really enjoyed the set up of the different Guilds and how Nina was able to infiltrate several of these. While this wasn’t a full 5 star read, I still want to read the next book as I have hopes that certain things will take place.
Damn but it feels good to have read a book that was 5 star from beginning to end. THE COURT OF MIRACLES was a page-turner and a half and I am truly sad it is over. I’ve heard all the rumours of Les Miserables and Jungle Book in the same breath as this release and in my opinion, it sits well with these ideas in the background. The execution of this kind of retelling was superb in every way.
Eponine (Nina) but mostly referred to as ‘Black Cat’ was a young novice of the Parisian underworld. She was equipped with the kind of foolish courage you see in someone young but that nerve and intuition moulded her into a thief admired by seasoned Masters of the Court. This was a world that was easy to understand despite the complexities that were apparent, I never once felt lost in the world building. This court of different ‘tribes’ of the city’s underworld had so many great characters to cheer for. I adored the ghosts, the thieves, the assassins and the people of the pen.
I’m the Black Cat of the Thieves Guild and these are the things I have done.
Life was tough for Nina, but she staunchly fought for her two sisters, she was loyal and sneaky and unrelenting; I adored her. I also enjoyed the humble ignorance she had for those three young men that admired from a distance (this is not a romance, by the way). Her little sister was annoying and fun, her big sister was tragic. What I admired most about Nina was that she brough the different guilds together in a way they never had before; she sparked loyalty in the senior people because of her courage and ingenuity.
The best thing about this book was the not knowing where-the-heck the plot was headed, what would happen around any turn and the pacing alongside the excitement. It was a tale told over years and so also, there was no rushing. Kester Grant is a name to watch and an author to anticipate more from.
THE COURT OF MIRACLES was a stand out read for me this year (so far). I have that itching desire to pick it up again, maybe I’ll wait for my precious hardcover to arrive.
Thank you to Harper Voyager for the early review copy.
Les Misérables, The Jungle Book, and Six of Crows. Sounds promising, but it was so disappointing.
The first Les Misérables retelling I read was Sky Without Stars and I loved it. I was not expecting to love it as much as I did and was very excited to read more Les Misérables retellings, even though I haven't read the original (I googled a summary, sorry). So when I first heard of The Court of Miracles, I was elated.
This is a reimagining of France with a failed French Revolution. Eponine or Nina, our main character, is about 9 years old when the book starts. Nina has a sister named Azelima. Azelima will be sold to a man named Kaplan by their father and in order to protect Nina, Azelima sends her along with Kemi, Azelima’s lover and a messenger of the Miracle Court, to the Guild of Thieves, a guild that makes up the Miracle Court, the criminal underworld. The eight other Guilds are: the Guild of Gamblers, the Guild of Beggars, the Guild of Assassins, the Guild of Mercenaries, the Guild of Smugglers, the Guild of Letters, the Guild of Flesh, and the Guild of Dreamers. Before Nina is able to become a member of the Guild, she has to steal a valuable item from the prince of France.
Nina successfully stole the valuable item and gave it to Tomasis, the Lord of Thieves. He is so impressed with Nina that he grants her a wish, anything that she wants. Nina, at first, asks for Tomasis to save her sister. Then, as an alternative, she asks that Kalpan, the man who bought her sister, be killed. This request makes everyone freeze in fear. Kalpan is known as the Tiger and is the Lord of Flesh. Everyone is afraid of him and it is against the Miracle Court’s laws to kill another Lord. Tomasis granted her neither of those wishes, but let her keep this wish for when she needed it and made her swear to never think about Azelima again.
Obviously, Nina does not keep her promise to never think about Azelima again. She tries to save her but fails. Then, she meets up with Kemi and he plants the idea that Azelima can be saved by finding something the Tiger wants, but can’t have. That’s where Cosette or Ettie comes into play. Nina plans to have Ettie catch the attention of the Tiger, then use Ettie as a bargaining chip to get her sister back. The problem comes when Nina starts to question whether a life for another life is worth it.
The concept of the Miracle Court and the Guilds is super interesting, but it was executed very poorly. I really liked that this book had a lot of diversity, and the main character was a POC, but that’s all that I enjoyed.
The pacing was fast —too fast. This caused everything to become so confusing. I normally like reading books that have fast pacing, but this was definitely too fast. There wasn’t enough time for adequate character development or time to meet all the characters introduced.
There were a lot of characters and they were not very distinguishable. The characters felt very flat and boring. I was not invested in the characters and kept forgetting who was who.
The beginning, in addition to being confusing, was super info-dumpy. I had to keep rereading pages over again just to understand and soak in the information that was given about the Miracle Court.
There are these awkward jumps in time that makes everything so confusing. These jumps are years long and they aren’t written very clearly.
All the different plots. I don’t know where one begins and one ends or how and why they appear. The different plot lines made everything super confusing as well and I wasn’t super invested in all of them.
The possible love interests. There wasn’t much romance in this book, but I can only imagine what will happen in the next book. There are 3 or 4 love interests and none of them are particularly interesting.
The writing style is very juvenile.
Honestly, it’s a miracle that I finished this book.
ARC received via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like they’ve added a surge of YA novels inspired by one of the French revolutions to their tbr lately? With this book, I was immediately intrigued when its description called it a Les Mis retelling.
Éponine “Nina” Thénardier witnesses her greedy father sell her beloved elder sister, Azelma, to a cruel brothel owner in exchange for a few gold coins. To save Nina from the same fate, Azelma arranges for her to be rescued from their father and swept into the mysterious Court of Miracles in the underworld of Paris. Made up of nine Guilds, the Court is a dark kingdom with political rivalries and ruthless rules of its own. Nina enthusiastically joins the Thieves Guild and becomes known as “The Black Cat” for her stealth and ability to sneak into any building. She soon discovers that the very man who bought her sister is none other than The Tiger, Lord of the Guild of Flesh, and Nina vows rescue Azelma. But when Thénardier adopts the beautiful Cosette “Ettie”, and she attracts The Tiger’s eye, Nina must concoct a plan to keep both her sisters safe.
This description, for me, is the true essence of this novel; a tale of sisterly love in a high-stakes, ominous world. It kept me on the edge of my seat as I wondered how Nina and Ettie would manage to escape the men trying to keep them caged. So why then, you might ask, is this a Les Mis retelling, aside from the characters’ names? If so, you’re asking the very question I found myself repeating throughout the book.
Yes, this book includes many other beloved Les Mis characters (Valjean, Javert, Enjolras and the Friends of the ABC, Gavroche. No Marius, surprisingly). Yes, one of the subplots involves the student-led June Rebellion and the battles at the barricade. But for a retelling, the Les Mis factor of it all is very underwhelming and left me wondering why it was even necessary. I wasn’t hyped on feelings of revolution and justice (Vive la France!), but rather felt invested in Nina’s life-or-death struggle to outwit the brotherhood she once vowed to uphold. If this book had solely relied on the fantastical, sinister world of the Court and its cast of compelling side characters (Orso, Femi, Tomasis, Lady Corday, The Tiger, etc.), it would have been just as successful, if not even more so.
That being said, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a fast-paced read; I couldn’t stop turning the pages as I followed Nina through the streets of Paris, from the royal palace to the sewers below. Kester Grant does an incredible job setting the scene and making you feel, smell, and hear everything Nina does, as though you’re sneaking along right beside her. I absolutely loved Nina’s sweet relationship with Ettie, as the bond the adopted sisters shared outdid all the other relationships in the book.
Additionally, you might enjoy this book if you like stories with light romance. Romance isn’t central to the plot, but rather it’s peppered throughout the book and takes a backseat to the rest of the action. However, it just didn't work for me. The flirting in which Nina partakes with not one, but three men is not only sparse – it also lacks chemistry. And don’t get me started on the scene where she surprise kisses Le Dauphin… I know it was to throw him off guard, but surprise kisses are not romantic.
The timeline of Nina’s story spans several years, however these time jumps are not well established. Despite the year being indicated at the beginning of each section, I still had a difficult time discerning how old Nina was supposed to be. At one point I stopped picturing her as a child and started imagining her as a teenager, but this was a choice I made based on the plot (read: romance) rather than clear cues indicated in the text. Also, the various animal fables at the beginning of each act didn’t add anything to the story for me – I think they were meant to enrich the plot, but I simply skipped most of them (I’m generally not a fan of this technique, though).
Overall, this was a good debut. I was surprised to learn it will be a series, as I think this book could easily succeed as a standalone novel. With the conflict resolved by the end, I’m interested to see what the second book will entail. I haven’t decided whether I’ll continue with the series, and I think I’ll wait to decide until I read the description of the sequel.
Thank you to Random House Children's via Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
This book is basically about one small, insignificant girl having all the hot/powerful people at her beck and call. It's freaking ridiculous.
I've not read Les Miserables, but I do know that it's over 1000 pages long, so if this book is supposed to be a retelling of it - with its mere 400 pages - that would explain why it feels so cluttered and chaotic. There are so many characters and plots etc that it leaves no time for actual tension or - most importantly - character development.
Nina has to be the most annoying, arrogant, self-absorbed idiot I've met since Harry Potter. She seems to think that she's righteous and clever but she just rampages about destroying lives for the sake of saving her sister. Allegedly. Mostly it's just awkward sexual tension with every boy she meets, and powerful people being unbelievably charmed by her and so doing whatever she asks of them. I don't get it.
Here's the thing: if you take away Nina, this is actually a pretty good story.
I love stories about assassins and thieves, so I really enjoyed the mix of all these rebellious guilds. Even though there was a lot of them and it was rather difficult to keep track of who was who, particularly when they all came with extra names and titles. Super confusing. But fun! Handy little chart at the front which actually shows the guilds and their leaders, although not all of them featured in this story, and I still got mixed up. There were some fun stand-out characters, though, and it was interesting the way they all kind of cooperated without really liking one another.
The scope of the story is huge, and as such there are a lot of characters that play their parts. I actually really loved Montparnasse, and would have appreciated if he'd been given a little more personal development and limelight. His skills were entirely wasted in this story, and so much of his time wasted over the cringe-inducing romantic tension between him and Nina. Just let him go out and kill some people FFS. I wanted so badly to fall in love with him but he just never got the respect he deserved.
There's also St. Juste (and don't even get me started on the names) who is the heart-of-gold, Captain America-type character who is all business but his business is standing against tyranny and protecting those who can't protect themselves. He also gets sucked in by Nina and there are so many moments where he steps out of character to flirt with her a bit. He also seems to still like her even though she repeatedly does sh*tty things to him? I'll say it again: I DON'T GET IT.
Seriously, so many characters got ripped off by having so much of their time wasted on mooning over Nina.
Because there's the prince, too - of course she enamours the prince, despite the fact that when she first meets him she's a 9yr old girl who sneaks into his room to steal from him. HOW ROMANTIC. *eyeroll*
AND DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THIS PARTICULAR DEVICE:
But, like I said: take Nina out, and you've got an interesting story of uprising and revolution and the criminal underground of Paris in the early 1800s. Which is actually kinda fun. There is trickery, backstabbing, secret allies, prison breaks, daring deeds, disguises ... there is actually a lot to love.
I just can't stand the main character. It's Harry Potter all over again.
Nina makes dumb decisions for dumb reasons, and a lot of her story is just not logical. All of these powerful people being at her beck and call, all of the attractive people being in love with her (despite an actual lack of any kind of decent romance at all), everyone playing into her hands and her being able to fool everyone who has been doing this way longer than her. I think the fact that she gets a cool nickname before she's even done anything cool kinda sets the tone for how high her pedestal is going to be for the entire novel. It's absolutely ridiculous.
Also, because so much time is wasted on how amazing Nina is and how everyone is so impressed by her, it just leaves so little time for the action. This is such a richly detailed world but it's neglected in favour of talking about Nina. The revolutionary tale is so powerful, and with the moral questions about family, and betrayal, and injustice there is quite a bit to ruminate on. There are so many ideas and powerful statements in this book that could have been built on; there are so many characters that could have grown throughout the novel, and had really strong moments that made us fall completely in love with them. But everything is wasted on trying to convince us that Nina is the best thing since sliced bread. (Ha! See what I did there with the bread ... and it's a story about famine ... not having enough bread ... ok, I'll show myself out.)
So I suppose, in conclusion: if this had been longer, more detailed, and less focused on Nina, I would have really enjoyed it. There is a lot to love about it but the ridiculousness of the god-like worship of Nina just sours the whole thing. She doesn't really grow or develop - she starts amazing and is amazing to everyone she meets throughout. And she meets a lot of people.
If you can get past Nina's arrogance and righteousness, you'll likely enjoy this a lot more than me. If you can suspend disbelief and just let the story and all its terrible cliches wash over you, it'll be good fun. There's enough here to entertain, and it does seem to set up for a sequel which honestly I'd be keen to read. There definitely is plenty here to love.
Just don't go into this one hoping for a lot of character development.
"Les Misérables meets Six of Crows meets The Jungle Book."
Oof. That's quite a bizarre yet intriguing combination that has captured the attention of many people. Since so much of the hype around this book is based on these claims, I thought it might be beneficial for potential readers to know a bit more about each of these comparisons. Hopefully that will help with any confusion about what to realistically expect before picking this up.
Les Misérables Even though it's not an exact retelling, I think that reading The Court of Miracles without some rudimentary background knowledge of Les Miserables would be a mistake. Several of the main characters are pulled straight from it along with their canon personality traits and established relationships - largely drawn from the musical adaptation if I had to guess. While there are enough differences to keep the story interesting and fresh, a level of familiarity is necessary since not everything is fully explained here. Without knowing the names of certain characters and their original roles, it would be easy to overlook them or not understand their significance whenever they showed up in this book. Even for someone familiar with the story, it wasn't initially clear to me what had (or hadn't) taken place in this version or why some characters were included while others were left out.
As the main character in this retelling, I was looking forward to Éponine (or "Nina") having a larger role here, but unfortunately I never felt a connection to her. Yes, she's clever, tough, stubborn, and reckless, but those traits alone do not a compelling protagonist make. Her motivations don't always make sense and aren't consistent. She is able to figure things out without any evidence on how she came to those conclusions. She's constantly getting involved when/where she shouldn't and despite being touted as the best "Cat" thief, ends up in some sticky situations. However, she is generally saved by someone showing up to help at the last minute. Along that line, I never understood why so many characters were completely entranced by her. Around 55%, I realized that not one, not two, but three potential love interests had emerged and none of them was the one I expected for a character based on Éponine. For a book that wasn't focused on romance, it felt unnecessary to have so many suitors tripping over themselves trying to offer her aid.
Six of Crows The setting for this story is early 1800s Paris if the French Revolution had failed. The monarchy has only become more paranoid of future uprisings yet refuses to do much to actually help the common citizens. There's a very clear distinction between the haves and the have-nots. The author truly captured the desperation and grittiness of the lives of the people in the lowest social classes. The harshness of what it takes to survive isn't often glossed over here - but is still kept within the YA rating. One response to the lack of governance was the creation of the Miracle Court with nine Guilds made up of various outcasts and miscreants - beggars, thieves, assassins, smugglers, etc. Each Guild has its own lord/lady to serve as its leader, a crest, and motto, and must adhere to the strict rules of the Miracle Court. This is where I was most reminded of Six of Crows. The general organization and adherence to certain laws amongst them brought to mind the Barrel and its collection of gangs. Other similarities came from a carefully crafted prison break (including some scenes that made me want to bathe and scrub my skin for hours after reading it) and the climax which involved most of the main characters and an overly complicated plan. If you were hoping for a multi-POV story with plenty of backstories and an elaborate heist, I fear you might be quite disappointed.
The Jungle Book As someone who isn't as familiar with The Jungle Book, I can only say the most obvious connection comes from the fact that the primary antagonist, who is called the Tiger, is after a vulnerable youngster who doesn't seem to fit within this grim world. Many of the "Wretched" - or members of the Miracle Court - also use names of animals to identify themselves (dog, mouse, bat, etc.) and these often tie in with their appearances or roles within their Guild. At the start of each section, there is a quote taken from the original text of The Jungle Book as well as excerpts from stories about animals which relate to certain themes in that section.
The Court of Miracles So... how does this mash-up work? Surprisingly well actually. The AU setting created by this author is plausible and I found the overall concept of the Miracle Court and Guilds to be immensely fascinating. I highly enjoyed following the characters to some of the Guild headquarters - each with their own unique aspects - and getting to see the stark contrast between palace life and the slums. There were parts which I thought were absolutely thrilling and kept me on the edge of my seat while reading them. I didn't anticipate the relationship between Nina and Ettie to evolve the way it did and was pleased that it ended up being quite sweet. I liked the writing style and thought it made the story easy to read and rather bingeable. I also appreciated some of the changes the author made regarding the diversity of the characters.
Despite its positive aspects, it was hard to identify a central plot as a major portion of the story focused on Nina just going from one task to another to another (saving someone, stealing something, doing a favor for another Guild Lord, etc.) While each of these worked independently and fairly satisfactorily, it reminded me of watching a television show where the protagonist embarks on a new adventure at the start of an episode and pretty much resolves whatever issue there was by the end. Good for a serial, not so great here. I felt that the final section does improve on this, but even then things that happen aren't explained well and it results in a somewhat messy and abrupt conclusion.
Even though my overall feelings about this book are mostly positive, the lack of a cohesive plot and an unrelatable protagonist led me to give the rating that I did. Since the Les Misérables references are not limited to mere nods, I would only recommend it to already established fans who might appreciate encountering familiar characters in an intriguing AU setting. I would be interested in picking up a sequel if only to see how things progress from here.
*e-ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*
There's been a lot of hype surrounding The Court of Miracles. I've seen it advertised for weeks on Twitter and the publishers website - and when this hype was combined with a beautiful, shiny cover and promises of seedy criminal underworlds in a Les Miserables retelling I knew I had to get my greedy little mitts on it.
I will say from the off that this is a loose retelling of Les Miserables, set against the backdrop of a failed French Revolution and the destruction the might of the nobility have left in their wake. Our protagonist is Eponine, known as Nina, the daughter of the Master of the Thieves guild - one of several guilds among the Court of Miracles, a forum created to gather together and control those that linger in the shadows. The assassins, the smugglers and those who deal in flesh. The forgotten children of the streets. All are welcomed as family at the court, where deals and alliances are easily traded and no-one can be trusted.
The court itself is the shining star of the novel, often taking on a life of its own with its own history, politics and backstory. The various guilds are fascinating (although woefully underused) as each takes on a personality of its own with its own cast of secondary characters and characteristics. The descriptions of the city and its despair are also well done, with rich discriptions of an affluent city that hides it's true colours of famine, death and disease beneath a veneer of gold. The atmosphere feels dirty and threatening.
The plot is also pretty decent, fast paced and well written - although I will say that this is a very loose retelling at times, taking a number of liberties with the original story, to the point where I often felt that this should have just been an original story, dropping some of the more obvious references to Les Miserables. We also get a lot of time skips throughout the book, jumping months and sometimes years into the future. This lessened some of the emotional connections between the characters, as well as make Nina's development a little less impactful as I wanted to see her plans come to fruition rather than merely be told how she teaches a certain conclusion.
Speaking of Nina, I did find her to be quite stereotypical of the YA genre heroine. She's that girl who seems to be able to do the impossible without much explanation as to how or why she has the skills that no-one else has. She's also the girl that has that one weakness that everyone knows about and exploits to their own advantage. That said, I thought she had a decent enough backstory and development to carry the story and I found her entertaining. Especially in her conversations with the other Guild Lords.
In terms of the other characters, referencing back to my earlier comment about dropping a lot of the Les Miserables references...a lot of the more obvious characters such as Javert just seemed a bit superfluous and didn't add anything to the main story. I found myself a lot more interested in the Tiger, the assassins and the Ghosts than I ever did about Jean Valjean and Javert. Even Ettie (Cosette) doesn't really get a decent enough backstory (she just randomly appears at the tavern as a ward one day) for me to care enough, and I didn't really find Nina's attachment to her all that believable - although their relationship does improve a lot towards the end. The Dauphin unfortunately didn't really appear enough for me to form a definitive opinion of him - although I do find his infatuation with Nina quite endearing.
I loved the Guilds and atmopshere of this world, and the strong writing and fast paced story are enough to keep me interested and entertained in the sequel. I'm really excited to see where the story will go now it's not restricted to the boundaries of its retelling. Fun, fast fantasy fiction.
The Court of Miracles was one of my most anticipated 2020 releases and I am sad to say that it’s been a disappointment.
• From the very first page I was not hooked. I was waiting for anything that would just click for me but it didn’t. The writing was mediocre and despite some of descriptive words the author used it still felt underwhelming. The pacing was unstable and it felt like there were many time skips that made everything disjointed.
• All along I was asking this question What is the plot? it honestly was such an ordeal for me to go through this book while trying to piece everything together so I can have an idea of what the plot is.
• The lack of characterization in all the characters themselves is the reason this book failed to create a connection between me “the reader” and the characters. I simply could not push myself to care about any of them and I tried so hard to get invested in them but I could not as they did not stand out to me.
• More dialogue, less action. This was a major issue for me. 70%-80% felt like it was all dialogue while the small portion of it was focused on action scenes that were neither gripping nor exciting. The dialogue was not engaging and fun, it bored my brains out.
• World-building is a big miss for the book. The story takes place in France and it is inspired by Les Miserables and The Jungle Book yet it still lacked the imagery that would’ve been a treat for me since that period of time is intriguing.
• I really wanted to like this book but I have to be honest in my review. And I am in no way bashing the author or her work however these are my honest thoughts and I do not want to be biased. I’m known for giving extra stars for books despite their flaws it’s always the experience that matters to me and this one was not it.
I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Holy cannoli guys. I remember the first time I ever watched Les Misérables on Broadway. It was completely magical and I loved every second of it. Then I dove into the movie, and loved that all over again. Now I get this wonderful and magical book, boy was I hooked from the very beginning. YES, it took me two days to devour it but I fully blame work. For some reason, it kept cutting into my damn reading time.. which I'm not a huge fan of.
Seriously, this book was so freaking good. I loved all the characters so much. Especially my bad ass ninja Nina. Not quite sure if I want to ship her with anyone because she is just completely amazing all on her own. I'm one hundred percent okay with friendships all around right now. Then there's Ettie, and I'm excited to watch her grow up even more. Heck, with what little Nina has taught her she is bound to survive and thrive on her own. Look at you little ghost!
Other than that, this book had a lot of betrayal in it. Like a LOT. I was shocked on a bunch because what the hell... who can you really trust? The only thing I would change is the ending. I'm so mad with how it ended and I desperately need the next book! I NEED TO KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT GUYS!
Please, oh please, give me the next ARC NetGalley Gods!!
Thank you NetGalley and Knopf Books for Young Readers for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
"You must make your enemies your allies. And if you can't do that, then destroy them. Them, and all who follow them, so that fear doesn't come for you when you sleep."
Yes, this, right here! This book is what I crave in fiction: a story full of characters that are neck-deep in troubles, that are wonderfully flawed, that are sometimes absolutely terrible in their actions yet own them, characters that bring down others so that they can get to their ultimate goal and are unapologetic about it.
What an incredible treasure it was to read The Court of Miracles, and what an intriguing world Kester Grant has brought to life in the mirrored like of Les Misérables.
I don't have too many points to nitpick about this novel. Yes, sometimes scenes segue into others a little abruptly, and I do want more background on a handful of characters—Montparnasse being highest on my list of these; I believe I love him. But these are small in the grand scheme of things.
Nina's character has joined the ranks of my favorites. The progression of who she turns into is fascinating, as is the determination that she has to go through with her ultimate goal. She is not shy to use those around her so that she can accomplish what she needs, but there's that grain of guilt in her, regardless, that keeps her human and growing. And at her side, Ettie is a darling. She has such a sweet heart despite the dreariness in which she has grown, despite the fact that she was essentially abandoned and left in the hands of someone who would've sold her for a profit. The two are a driving force in the novel.
The introduction of the Guilds of the Miracle Court is not something that hasn't been done before, but the way that they work is still imaginative enough that they become a great fixture to the plot--
Now these are the of the Miracle Court,... the Wretched that keep them may prosper, but the Wretched that break them must die.
They're central as the story moves forward, and their laws and symbolism are one of the biggest causes behind Nina's actions. I can't wait to know the other Guilds in more detail down the line, but those of the Assassins and Beggars hold a dear place in my heart already.
It was a treat to see some favorites of the classic this tale takes inspiration from in Jean Valjean, Thénardier and Enjolras, despite the displeasing nature of at least one of those (looking at you, Thénardier). And I was almost sorry to see the fate that befalls the Tiger, considering how fantastic the caliber of “wicked” an antagonist such as he maintains.
The Court of Miracles is full to bursting with tragedy, it never fails in its dark and dire undertones, and there is no apology to the reality of how down-trodden the lives are of the souls in this story. But despite it all, they still find something to fight for and to live for, and that's what makes it so precious: that hope.
I’m going to start my review off by saying that I can never condone or endorse taking a canonically gay character and making him straight just to fit the author’s heterosexual fantasies. This is not the only instance of queer erasure in this book. Because of the inherent homophobia of this, I can’t in good conscience give this book a high rating or recommend anyone read it. However, there is little in this book that would have merited a rating higher than one star regardless.
- It became painfully obvious throughout the book that the author hasn’t read the original Les Misérables novel and is basing this more on the musical. A lot of the details from the book are gotten completely wrong, often times having an unintended comical effect. All of the canonical Les Mis characters are very out of character and twisted to fit whatever kind of character the author needs them to be. Originally very complex characters (such as Eponine, Cosette, Enjolras and Grantaire) are reduced to one-dimensional caricatures of themselves. As mentioned earlier, Enjolras, who is gay coded in the original novel, is made straight, which is inexcusable. Some characters are reduced completely unrecognizable from Hugo’s novel and share nothing in common with the original characters except their names (such as Azelma, Valjean and Gavroche).
- The main character Nina is ridiculously overpowered and all the characters constantly stress how special she is, including herself. She is portrayed as “one of the boys” and the only female friends she has are incompetent and weak compared to her. She does not have a relationship with any women her age and her social circle consists mostly of men, proving how special she is that she has been accepted into a group of men, while inadvertently making a misogynistic point that she’s too good for female friends who aren’t younger than her. All of the people aiding her in her quest are male.
- As I mentioned above, Enjolras, the canonically gay character from Les Misérables has been straightwashed, a practice unfortunately common in the fandom. Similarly, Javert has been turned into a woman, which in itself sounds like a great way to diversify the original book, but it becomes obvious that this has been done in an attempt to eliminate any possible homoeroticism between Javert and Valjean, to make their sexual tension heterosexual and thus nonthreatening. There are no queer characters in this book, unlike the original.
- The writing itself could be improved upon; it’s stilted and awkward at times, and the language fairly repetitive and unimaginative, full of awkward descriptions like “the bone debt” and “the bread price” that aren’t really explained. The same descriptions are used over and over through the book, making reading it a very frustrating experience. The plot is full of info dumps, telling and not showing, and the structure follows more the typical structure of a fanfic rather than a novel. However, the plot progresses fast, and this book definitely didn’t bore me and I finished it fairly quickly.
- The book had a lot of historical inaccuracies, and while many of them could be explained by the fact that this is a thought experiment on what if the French Revolution was unsuccessful, some of the inaccuracies can’t be as easily explained away, yet are never addressed.
- Doing a retelling of Les Misérables would have been an excellent opportunity to do really important and clever commentary on issues such as racism, women’s issues, queer issues, poverty etc. in 1800s France. However, none of this is explored in the book. A few surface-level, off-handed comments are made about racism and women’s issues, while queer issues are not explored at all. This is unfortunate, considering how many issues the original novel tackled on, and how a retelling could’ve further expanded on those issues from a modern perspective.
- So then the question arises, if this book has essentially none of the themes from the original novel and the characters are either unrecognizable or overly simplified, then what is the point of making this a Les Misérables retelling? Why not just make the setting 1800s France, make up the backstory that the French Revolution has failed, and then create your own original characters? What is the merit of this retelling, what new and exciting does it bring it to the original work? The answer is that the is no reason for this to be a retelling and there’s nothing valuable, refreshing or new that this piece of work brings to the original, and this might have even been better had it been just her original characters.
- One positive note about this book is that I really love how she made the majority of the characters explicitly people of colour, which is certainly something I love to see in a Les Mis retelling. Still, having a diverse cast of poc characters is not commendable enough, when the rest of this book – published in 2020 – is more regressive in every other way than the original book written 160 years ago.
I have to start this review by celebrating my very first completed audiobook! No one is more shocked than me by how much I loved listening to the narration of this book. I certainly did not expect to be able to focus on the narrated story as my mind tends to wander when I listen to people talk for a long time. Although this was not a huge problem here, I cannot tell how much of this was because of the narration or the story.
“The city has a way of breeding a certain desperation"
There is no denying that Kester Grant's highly descriptive and vivid writing played a huge role in keeping me engaged. Kester constantly details what characters hear, see and smell, which creates an immersive experience that brings each scene to life.
However, as the book went on, the details which I initial loved and devoured soon became excessive and even made the book boring in some areas. This was not helped by the fact that some phrases are repeated many times. While I understand that repetition of essential information is used for emphasis, it adds very little to this story and felt unnecessary in this instance.
My complaints aside, the extensive details provided are put to good use in establishing the amazing world that serves as the setting of this book. I loved the concept of the Court of Miracles and the nine criminal guilds that it contains. I also liked that a few of these guilds are explored in more detail during the story.
The additional backdrop of 1828 Paris and the friction between the nobles and commoners was rather interesting. However, I felt that this setting is played up far more than it should, making the story somewhat disjointed and cluttered. In fact, with the world-building mainly presented in blocks of information at the start of the story, this additional layer of the setting simply prolonged the slow start.
“You must make your enemies your allies. And if you can't do that, then destroy them”
It really is a shame that the world-building information could not have been delivered more creatively! Perhaps Kester simply wanted to set the scene as quickly as possible, or the complex setting could not be easily dispersed across the story. Either way, the deluge of information at the start ultimately made the initial chapters less engaging and unexciting.
Once this groundwork is completed, the fast-paced plot that emerges is captivating. There always seems to be something happening and this made me eager to continue the audiobook whenever I could. That being said, the plot also had moments that felt disjointed and lacked a strong flow. This was largely due to the various subplots that randomly emerged and some poorly executed time-jumps. I would have preferred that the subplots be explored further in subsequent books, rather than condensed into this story. This would have freed up space for the time-jumps to be outlined better and improved the flow of the story.
The diverse characters in this book is another feature that could have been amazing if properly developed. Sadly, only two characters felt somewhat developed: the main character, Eponine (Nina) Thénardier, and her adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). Even then, the awkward time-jumps in the story prevent readers from being privy to the full growth of these characters. This made it difficult for me to connect with the characters and meant I remained indifferent to their struggles and achievements.
A lot was also done to present Nina as this fierce, cunning character and to highlight her tough personality. In fact, Nina’s personality is so appealing it attracts three different romantic leads. That’s right, not one, not two, but three men! The only problem? Nina has no chemistry with all of them. Zero. Zilch. Nada!
To some extent, this lack of chemistry can be attributed to the awkward time-jumps and the one-dimensional male leads. A lot of the "romance" is also set up through childish comments from Etti or thoughts from Nina about the physical appearance of the men, which does nothing to create a strong attraction. Thankfully, the romance does not play a huge role in the story, and I think the book would have been a little stronger without it.
“sometimes we must pay a terrible price to protect the things we love"
Everything considered 'The Court of Miracles' is an interesting book that kept me coming back for more because of its fast pace, interesting world and vivid writing. However, it is not without glaring imperfections such as underdeveloped characters, erratic time-jumps and excessive subplots. Together, these features result in a decent story that marks the beginning of a promising series.