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This review is from: The Virtu (Ace Fantasy Book) (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.