on 22 July 2007
I ordered this book in a bulk buy here at Amazon, desperate to find something decent to read. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately ordered its sequel and forgot about everything else, including a certain young wizard called Harry.
Told from the perspective of two very different characters, the narrative reflecting (often humorously) their opposing circumstances, it is not a typical fantasy fiction. First of all, neither character is thrust at the reader as immediately likeable or vice versa; they're both flawed enough to remain interesting and entertaining. The world isn't introduced in bombardments of politics and history - you're flung in at the deep end, which though confusing initially is quick to make an impression and means that Monette doesn't have to toil through page after page of tedious explanation later on. We're nicely spoon-fed bits and pieces as we need it so that the plot development doesn't suffer.
It's the relationship between the two main characters, Felix and Mildmay that keeps the book so fresh though. Far from conventional but a pleasure nonetheless.
on 4 January 2007
This book starts out very well. I like the way the naming conventions of this book bring to mind Viriconium by M. John Harrison, even if we are more in the often too-self-conscious and secretly conservative New Weird tradition of Mieville and Vandermeer, rather than the no-holds-barred radical enthusiasm of original New Wave.
There are two viewpoint characters, an effeminate mage who is a former prostitute and a street-wise cat-burglar whose manner of speech isn't too affected to be unbelievable even if the conspicuous repetition of the word "septad" for "seven" is annoying and they are both a little cliched and foreseeable in their actions. So, beyond some conservative character-presentation there is a well-realised city-state with a seeming wealth of history behind it (well brought out even with only passing reference to characters, legends and events in the city's past).
The fall into madness of one of these characters is handled very well though there comes a moment when one wonders whether the writer had trouble deciding how to use a madman as the narrator of events meant to hasten the overall plot. These hesitations come off as a bit tedious, especially in the second half when the action transforms into a roadtrip and the most interesting things the characters think about for almost a hundred pages are whether or not they can find food and an inn, or if they have to steal things, again, for far too many times. The only thing offered as a reason for this prolonged plodding is an event the two protagonists have to stage, described as very meaningful, but using the madman as the one who has both the necessary information to explain this event and at the same time no means to offer a coherent explication of it makes the whole event meaningless. In the end it is passed over rather quickly. After this, for the rest of the trip we get a sea voyage and a prolonged descent into variations upon the same theme in the closed quarters of a ship's hold: how can the other guy not make the other guy go more mad. They get nowhere, the same chain of thought is repeated over and over again. Yadha yadha. At least this reader was left with a feeling of utter boredom. The final ending does pick up a little and there are some nice embedded stories.
on 4 January 2015
Mélusine is a city of wizards, thieves and court intrigue.
Our first protagonist is Felix Harrowgate, a wizard whose efforts in getting himself to the top of society is destroyed when his past as a teenage prostitute is revealed. What follows is a descent into madness and a fall from grace.
Felix shares the first person narrative with Mildmay the Fox, a renowned thief who gets pulled into intrigues he doesn't understand.
The premise and lushness of the ideas on offer here pulled me in and the first few chapters made me look forward to something wonderful. However, the promise of the early parts of the book was not fulfilled for me and for various reasons.
Firstly, the story: it didn't go anywhere. Characters and subplots are introduced that made me think they would play some part in the narrative, only to be written out or resolved out of nowhere. Felix is a madhouse for pages and pages, an interlude which could have been more ruthlessly redacted as once we understand the depths of his traumatised mind we make no progress.
Another thing is the language. We are treated to beautiful, fantastical place names but with no idea of where they are or their relevance to the story it just becomes a confused jumble of jargon. In the same vein, we discover the lower classes use a base-seven counting system, using groups of seven called septads instead of the usual ten to count (eg. A septad and five instead of 12). And Mildmay reminds us of this at every turn. Walls a septad foot high, septad of years ago, when he had less than two septads of age... and it really is as annoying as that. Instead of giving us an idea of this, we are bashed over the head with it every page or so.
I didn't end up finishing Mélusine and I'm glad I borrowed it from the Kindle lending library for free. There is some truly inspired world building here, but the story itself never takes off enough to be truly engaging.
Although I understand Melusine to be the first book by a new author, I am sorry to say that I truly find little at all promising about her work. What's really, truly tragic about this disaster of a book is that it promises to be something so much better. If only the characters weren't so unlikeable, if only the narrative wasn't so poorly written and choppy, if only the plot was better paced and... actually made sense, if only, in only, if only...!
When I first started reading this title, my initial impressions were that I felt utterly overwhelmed and lost. There's a world here, deep in history and a developed political system and overal culture, but after 100+ pages, it never gets developed, it never gets explained, and I often have trouble working out if it even makes any sense. In fact, the start left me with the feeling that perhaps someone had ripped out the first few chapters, or perhaps there was even meant to be a prequel. Nothing is explained or established; we are simply thrown into a world and are told very little about it. Even after getting to page 200, I felt no wiser. And then I gave up.
There's a magic system here, too, but I have yet to figure out how it's supposed to work. And names and terms that are thrown about without much explanation being offered to the reader. Trying to read a book full of words and terms that are near impossible to figure out - well, starts to become frustrating after a while.
The narration is choppy. Written in first person, the story switches between two central characters: Felix, and Mildmay. I hated both of them. Felix was a weak-willed, pathetic character that I just could not sympathize with. Mildmay's narrative will be immediately off-putting to anyone who doesn't like books riddled with expletives. Mildmay swears a lot, and his overal narrative style is utterly inconsistant.
Melusine feels like an utter mis-match of ideas. The names are utterly *awful*. Feels like the author just put a load of names from myth, etc, into a hat and randomly pulled them out. Having people called Cerberus and Robert in the same city don't make much sense.
If there's supposed to be tension in this story, I didn't feel it. There WERE parts that were definitely supposed to give me that impression, but they failed miserably. The narration lacks decent pacing or description. I often got the "talking heads" feeling- characters that happily talk for pages and pages, whilst the reader is left without an adequate feeling of setting or description in which to help guide their imagination.
The villain is ... evil for the sake of being evil. There's a rape scene in this book, and I can't help feeling disgusted by it because it seemed to be there just to make the villain look more evil. It was implied there was a reason why it was necessary, but I'd have had a hard time buying it, if the reasons were ever given.
Then there are the characters that we spend pages getting to know, only to have them dissapear, or be otherwise cast from the story, and seemingly forgotten by the main characters as though they had never been all that important at all.
I found it very hard to become engrossed in the story. Not just because of the bad plot, bad characters, awful narrative, lack of description, lack of world development (I just CAN'T picture Melusine or any of its characters) but also because the viewpoint changes so often. I've read lots of books where there's more than one character narration and it works (even in first person) but not in Melusine. Having narrative shift every page or so (sometimes less than half a page per character) is not long enough to allow us to feel "settled" within that narrators head, before we are thrown out and asked to settle inside the others instead. This is not a good way to draw out tension or conflict, it just made me feel irritated and I kept forgetting what was happening to the characters because I was trying to keep up with so much at once.
And after reading 200 pages, there really wasn't all that much reward for the effort I'd made to get even that far. Felix's mental state was handled well, but I think the author spent too long forcing the point. Yes, he's been abused, yes, he's a broken mess, yes, we get it okay, okay!
In summary: Avoid. Do not read. Read Anne Bishop's "Black Jewels" trilogy, it's dark, and so much better than this nonsense.
on 2 February 2007
This is dire. The plot is almost completely incoherent, with cardboard cut out characters appearing and disappearing with dizzying speed. The two main characters who take it turn and turn about to narrate the story are both without any redeeming features and their main abilities lie in being able to moan and whine for page after page. The plot descends into a tedious travelogue with absolutely nothing to commend it.
The writing style is poor; as I lost interest in the book I continued to read simply to see how many paragraphs the author could write that were single sentences. Worryingly there were a large number of them. The fantasy element was supplied by a bewildering array of rather dull fantasy type names and the use of words like 'septad' did not embue the book with any feeling of the strange or exotic - they were just irritating.
I continued to grind my way through page after page hoping against hope that the Big Bad Guy was going to come around the corner and kill them off. The rest of the book could then have described paint drying on a wall, and quite frankly it would have been a lot more entertaining.
There are too many good books in the world to read rather than waste precious time reading this dull excuse for entertainment; please, please don't consider this title. It really *is* that bad.