Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hocuses, powers, and wards, oh my!

I love debuts. Love, love, love, love them. In 2006 so far, I've read a good share of author debuts (Crystal Rain by Tobias S. Buckell, Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest, According to Crow by E. Sedia, Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi, and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow to name a few) and have enjoyed just about each and every one of them. Mélusine by Sarah Monette is no different.

It takes place in the city of the novel's namesake, a sprawling mass of buildings and districts, each with their own brood of inhabitants and creatures. The narration is divided between two distinctly different characters; Mildmay the Fox, a kept-thief and one sarcastic but witty man, and Felix Harrowgate, a nobleman and hocus with a dark past. They both lead seperate lives but once the Virtu, a monument of extreme importance to the city and its magicians, is broken, Mildmay and Felix will have to flee the city. Inevitably, they will meet up. But can they help each other or will their pasts hinder the cause?

Mélusine is a bit slow at first, chugging through the usual standards of welcoming the reader into the city, showing off its buildings rich with history and dropping hints of the weird and off-beat. Mildmay's chapters started out right with a bit of thieving and running around and some light flirting. Felix, well, his chapters were interesting, yes, but I found them harder to get through. Each are told from first person perspective, and I was happy to see that their voices were unique enough to seperate the two as characters. Probably one of the big reasons I enjoyed Mildmay more is that he likes to curse. A lot. Kethe, that's just great.

The book picks up the pace midway through and by then it's smooth sailing. Er, well, not for the characters. Hard times are ahead and as they begin to learn more and more about each other it becomes apparent why they need to stick together. There are other members of the cast, but they eventually get left behind and many never seem to have a real importance in the book except to help Mildmay/Felix from one place to the other. Hopefully, The Virtu will dive more into the relationship of Felix and Lord Shannon. And Malkar. Oh, he was a nasty brute but we don't see him for much of the book.

My favorite aspect of Mélusine is Monette's manipulation of its language. Kethe, powers, hocus, and more. The word "magic" is actually seldom used. The worldbuilding within is masterful, and you can tell the city is brimming with history. Everything felt natural, and it certainly showed that Monette knows her world well. Granted, I didn't completely understand her calendar/time system on the first go, but she has posted an interesting explanation of how it works.

Anyways, it's out in mass market paperback now so there is absolutely no reason not to check it out. The Virtu is out in hardback, and two more novels set in the same world are planned to be released in the future.

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