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The Virtu (Ace Fantasy Book) Mass Market Paperback – 31 Jul 2007

4 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 499 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Books; Reprint edition (31 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441015166
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441015160
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 2.9 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,083,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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When I opened the door, I could tell that Thamuris was dosed to the gills on laudanum. Read the first page
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By Furio on 21 Aug. 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In this second instalment of the serial we find more or less the same flaws that were in the first, first and foremost the author's morbid, sadistic complacency in describing and overindulging in the two main characters' messed up lives and their tormented, disfunctional personalities, an excess that leads sometimes to inconsistent or childish behaviours.
Introspection is therefore at the same time the main asset of this book and its main flaw: Felix and Mildmay feel constantly, impossibly tortured, most of the pain they suffer, now that they have escaped their abusers, is self inflicted. Tension is always there but it is sort of circular: the two never really grow up and tend to repeat the same damaging behavioural patterns with disastrous consequences.

It is also difficult to understand (and surely hard to stomach) how Felix only realizes he has hurt his brother AFTER he has done it. Each and every person makes mistakes but he really only talks about having changed while he keeps on behaving like the cruel, spoiled courtier he was before getting insane. It is the author's choice, of course, but perhaps it could have been carried out in a more nuanced way.

On the other hand while the plot is not exceptionally rich in events, it never drags. Ms Monette's love of language is evident throughout as was in the first volume but here her writing flows even better. This remains a serial not to be read when only looking for easy fun but the language here gave me authentic pleasure. Mildmay's slang, which was rather clunky in the first volume, is here unerring and highly communicative. The same Mildmay often breaks the fourth wall to address the reader directly and it always sounds good.

The magic is a bit convoluted but engaging, side characters functional to the plot, the plot itself evolves nicely and the 500 hundred pages read quickly and pleasurably.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x98899edc) out of 5 stars 24 reviews
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x988ccbac) out of 5 stars Read this if you've read Melusine! 14 July 2006
By A. J Terry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
_The Virtu_ is the second half of _Melusine_. If publishers still published large one-volume novels instead of series, the two would have worked perfectly as one book. I recommend buying both books at once and reading them in order without stopping.

The narrative is still a seamless combination of Felix and his half-brother Mildmay. The two voices are done very well. Unlike some multiple-viewpoint novels, the plot is never confusing because one narrator always takes up precisely where the other one left off.

The fantasy world is unusual and interesting, and the two main characters have great depth. Felix and Mildmay have similar pasts, but have evolved in different ways. Their strengths and weaknesses complement each other extremely well as far as their relationship and the plot goes. Both are damaged characters (mentally and physically), but still capable of good acts. Felix is here shown on his sane, or "up" side, which makes him distinctly more likeable than he was in _Melusine_. Granted, he's conceited, quickly angered, and manipulative, but he's also talented, sometimes charming, and highly intelligent and well educated. Frankly, he was too much of a one-note character in _Melusine_--all he did there was cower and whine, and none of his better traits were visible. Mildmay is much the same as in _Melusine_, but he's an interesting portrait of how a harsh background can form a person who is a professional criminal, but still capable of many generous acts. Both Felix and Mildmay evolve throughout the two books, struggling to become better people. They succeed to some extent; but realistically, with very slow progress, backslidings, and unpleasant self-realizations.

One problem I have with both books is: Everyone in them is far too quick to become extremely angry and/or hurt from a single remark from another character. There are many scenes where people who are supposedly longtime lovers or friends say one thing to each other and bang! either the relationship ends entirely, or the parties involved quit speaking for weeks. For example, Felix's relationship with Shannon--in _Melusine_ Felix is unable to enjoy sex once, and a love affair of several years is over forever. It is often unclear why some characters are in a constant state of prickly dislike for each other. There are no really healthy personal relationships in these books. I don't require books to be cozy, but it seems like statistically there should be a _few_ people in a society who can consistently trust and love each other and get along.

Although _The Virtu_ does not leave as many loose ends as _Melusine_, I'm willing to bet there will be at least one more book in the series. Some minor characters, such as Arakhne, seem to have no purpose in the plot except to return in a later book. There are also hints that the boy Florian will be in contact with Felix again someday. Many mysteries still surround the actress Mehitabel, the parentage of Felix and Mildmay, and the Mirador. The author plants an explicit question as to where Mavortian's divination cards came from.

And this is a long shot, but I'm wondering whether Mildmay is going to get trained as a wizard. He seems to have some unusual abilities that no one has yet recognized as such.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x988ccfd8) out of 5 stars Brilliant 22 July 2006
By M. Jacobs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Read this book. I can't recommend it strongly enough.

This novel picks up where _Melusine_leaves off, with Felix newly returned to sanity and Mildmay learning to deal with the injury to his leg. I don't want to give any of the plot away -- everyone should have the joy of watching it unfold at its own pace -- but I will say that every plot twist is satisfying, and appears strangely perfect and inevitable once it happens. Which is not to say that you see any of it coming, because you don't, not with any degree of surety, not until it's already upon you.

Felix is not a particularly likeable guy, a fact acknowledged by everyone, himself included. Mildmay, on the other hand, is one of the most sympathetic and compelling characters in modern fantasy. Watching his relationship with Felix develop, in both healthy and unhealthy ways, is consistently fascinating. You understand why they do what they do, even when their actions make you wince. The desire to find out what happens next may cost you sleep. It did me.

A rare novel, a rare author. I really hope there are more books in this series. You're not going to find better fantasy anywhere.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x988cf048) out of 5 stars Almost everything I hoped for 11 Dec. 2007
By J. Allis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is the sequel to Melusine, and that's by way of saying they're more like two volumes of a single tale than two standalone books. Melusine gets Felix and Mildmay to where they were going, but once they're there they have to patch themselves up and then get home...and that's only the beginning.

The first book introduced the characters as individuals, and used various adventures during their journey to let you get to know them better. This book is all about the characters interacting--specifically Felix and Mildmay, who remain the two POV characters in this continuing first person narrative.

Felix was psychologically damaged in the first book, requiring Mildmay to protect him. In this book, it's turnabout as Felix recovers and Mildmay quickly finds himself out of his depth. A common thief without any magic, he's looked down upon by the wizards who Felix seems constantly surrounded with, and in some cases he finds himself helpless at their hands. What's more, too much has happened for him to return to his old life, and he's cast adrift to find a new niche for himself. He's in over his head with Felix himself, too: the hapless madman from the first book is gone, replaced by a powerful, confident and charismatic man who's used to getting his way through any means necessary.

But Mildmay is no pushover, and Felix isn't all-powerful, and the two of them quickly discover how much they need each other--a prospect that doesn't comfort either of these men who're used to living their lives in emotional isolation. But it makes for great reading, let me tell you. This book is saturated with the developing relationship between the two brothers, touching scenes and false starts and sometimes lashing out as they increasingly realize they're in this together.

The plot here is more integrated and consistent than in the first book, where it mostly consisted of spurts of activity among a lot of boring travel. This time, Felix has a goal that drives the action: he wants to get home to fix his screw-up, redeem himself, and take vengeance on the man who hurt him. Mildmay mainly follows along and bails the reckless wizard out of trouble. They pick up some new companions and some old ones, including perhaps the only two sane and stable characters in the series. The labyrinth motif deepens in this book into a true theme that echoes on every level from the literal to symbolic, as the characters find themselves lost in actual labyrinths and emotional ones, and even the maze-like turns of prophecy and fate.

But don't expect a happy ending. Just when everything seems to be working out alright and the end is in sight, Felix manages to screw it all up royally. He gets what he wanted, but all is definitely not well, to the tune of another two books following to clean up the mess he makes. And poor Mildmay...if you like writers who are cruel to their characters, this is definitely a book for you. Mildmay claims he can find his way through any maze, and he and Felix had both better hope that's true.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x988cf114) out of 5 stars A WONDERFUL SURPRISE. exellent read, not a quickie 20 Nov. 2007
By Confessed Beadaholic - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Prior to this book, read the first book in the series, "Melusine", and just ignore the embarrassing artwork that looks like Fabio's red haired cousin. That book, with it's dual first person narration creates unique and distinct character voices and a refreshingly original take on the fantasy wizards n theives genre, will suck you in. The fact that one of the voices is of a character who has been deliberately driven stark raving bonkers just adds to the fascination.

The author never stoops to explain the convoluted magic/nonmagic world of the novels, it is inferred through the character's accounts, and gradually unfolds to gain a separate reality of its own, in the tradition of the excellent fantasy works by McMasters Bujold, Le Guin, McKillip, Kage Baker, Jordan, Herbert, even early McCaffrey (yes I said it).

I did have a little personal difficulty with the fact that one of the main characters is gay, and this is an important part of his character and situation. I got over it however, because this is just one aspect of the story that revolves around two unlikely brothers drawn together in the most difficult of circumstances. It is just one of the things that shows how different the brothers are.

How would you like to finally meet your high-falutin wizard half-brother just when he's been driven out of his mind by a dangerous magical assault and kicked out of the prestigious ruling party as the worst kind of traitor? If you are thief and murderer Mildmay, you will yearn for family you never had, and respond with single minded loyalty, in the face of every kind of dissuasion, difficulty, and disaster--not the least of which is the lack of gratitude from the brother in question. Will they find a cure? Can Mildmay outrun his own past? Will they elude capture? Will Felix even remember Mildmay and his sacrifices if they do?

In "The Virtu", the two brothers are still together far from home, Felix is (mostly) no longer crazy, and thief/murderer Mildmay is unwelcome damaged goods in the eyes of the sycophants and wizards who surround Felix. In a successful continuation of the two voices/first person narration, these two completely disparate personalities tolerate and sometimes care for each other in their own unique ways. Felix's struggles to repair the damage he has caused to his home city and to his brother are paralleled by Mildmay's struggles with a wizard's curse, his dubious past, and his inescapably prophesied future. Wizardly and non-wizardly adventures and rescues abound, but it's the two strong personalities that make these books un-put-downable. By tying himself to Felix, Mildmay has let himself in for more trouble than anyone can imagine, and in the end, it is Felix's fault. Will Felix stop hurting and using people? Will Mildmay quit his stubborness and learn to ask for help, or will he tell Felix where to put it? read for yourself!
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x988cf30c) out of 5 stars Hard to get into 2 Sept. 2007
By Dan S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I am not really sure whether it's the writing style or the characters but I found this novel to be very difficult to get involved in, something I also felt about the previous novel Melusine.

All of the characters are obnoxiously intractable and that makes it very hard to feel sympathetic towards any of them. The whole story left me feeling rather indifferent as to whether they lived or died by the end.

Huge amounts of page time are spent in "in-between" locations traveling from place to place with very little going on except for the characters stubbornly refusing to interact in a meaningful way.

The plot is vague and we're not advised as to the important details of the world herein even as we're bombarded with lots of minutae about the cultures and societies with little context provided. This is a magical world but damned if I could figure out what practical uses magic is actually put to here.

The Virtu is not a horrible novel, but it isn't engaging either. All in all I found it to not be a very compelling read.
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