Book Report: The Virtu & The Mirador by Sarah Monette

December 26, 2008 at 1:34 pm (Books Galore) (, )

Both are the second and third books in the Doctrine of Labyrinths series. The first book, Melusine, is one I read a while back and apparently never reviewed, wtf, but rest assured I enjoyed it and would have recommended it highly if I’d just remembered to do it. At any rate, I didn’t get a chance to get at the next two books until now. My reviews tend to be SPOILERY OUT THE WINDOW so here’s FAIR WARNING.


At the beginning of The Virtu, Felix and Mildmay are still at The Gardens of Nephele, having been healed (mostly) from their adventures in Melusine. They decide to head back to Melusine so that Felix can try and fix the Virtu, the magical doohickey he was used to break in Melusine, and along the way they run into old goddesses of death and pick up a traveling companion, Mehitabel Parr and Mildmay is bonded to the Felix using the obligation d’ame, which binds a wizard and a non-wizard (annemer) together; the wizard’s protection in exchange for the annemer’s service—it allows the wizard to control the annemer if necessary, except for commanding them to kill themselves. They also rescue their traveling companions from book one, Gideon, Mavortian, and Berbard. Having made it all the way back to Melusine without being detected, they proceed to march right into town and Felix starts to work on the Virtu. He succeeds, but then Malkar raises his ugly head and, in a fit of rage, Felix gets Mildmay captured by Malkar and tortured. He sets off to rescue him, kills Malkar, and returns to the Mirador.

Jump forward two years to the beginning of The Mirador. Mehitabel has a growing career as an actress and is sort-of involved with Mildmay, Mildmay is still bound to Felix, Felix is the same as ever, though his worry over Malkar’s rubies is causing him to lose control of his temper and to drink more. This one has a lot less involved a plot—most of its weight rests on the shoulders of Mildmay and Mehitabel, which is reflected in the way that the sections narrated by Felix drop off sharply, and Mehitabel is introduced as a narrator. The plot of The Mirador is essentially the Bastion tries to use Mehitabel as a spy, because she used to be one. Mildmay decides to put old ghosts to rest and tries to find out who got his girlfriend from Melusine, Ginevra, killed. The two plots wind in parallel to each other and are eventually brought together by Felix, that attention whore, who is the lover of Gideon, a wizard from the Bastion trying to seek asylum in the Mirador and is accused of being spy—Felix is also sleeping with Isaac Garamond, a wizard who is Mehitabel’s contact to the Bastion and the real spy. Felix takes revenge on Isaac, attacking him with magic, which is gross heresy in his school of wizardry. He is exiled from Melusine, to be judged by the Convocation of Corambis. Mildmay, having no choice, follows.

The plots in both are…hmm, a little compressed, not so much thin as, well, kind of straightforward. In a sense they are a vehicle for the character interactions than the other way around, if that makes sense. The focus is on not on the deeds of derring-do, but on how those deeds affect and change character perceptions and relationships to each other. For example: part of the plot of The Mirador is centered on how Mehitabel is being used to spy for the Bastion. They are holding her old lover over her head, and so she complies—but she doesn’t free herself from being beholden to them by, I don’t know, getting help or attacking the spymaster at the Bastion or anything. She plays along, because there’s not much else for her to do, and basically when keeping quiet means getting Felix (and Mildmay) killed, she confesses. In the broadest sense the plots are not actually that complex. It’s the way people fuck them up for each other and themselves that make them interesting. The best thing about these books is really the characters.

Speaking of which, both books are written in first person, shifting between characters. The Virtu is all Mildmay and Felix, but The Mirador is mostly Mildmay and Mehitabel, with some bits of Felix thrown in. It’s very interesting, the voices are well-written and very distinct. The slang is gorgeous, flows naturally and while it takes a while to get used and understand completely but by god is it good. The lack of a glossary almost makes it better, you know. It lends Mildmay’s voice so much flavor. It’s one of the best things about reading it.</ljcut>

TL;DR: plots aren’t too intricate but that’s okay because the characters more than make up for it. The writing is good and the people are interesting and they’re definitely enjoyable. You may not want to read them if you’re majorly squicked by incest—nothing happens, but some one-sided desire is there, mostly in The Virtu. Otherwise its hella good fun, recommended very much, can’t wait for the next book which comes out 2009—which is almost here~


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