Mini-Book Report: Corambis by Sarah Monette

April 12, 2009 at 12:16 pm (Books Galore) (, )

Corambis was pretty much everything I wanted it to be.

(This quick knee-jerk reaction isn’t spoiler-y in a specific events sense, but may be spoiler-y in a general-story-structure kind of way.)

I mean, it started out a little shaky and heavy on the exposition—Monette handwaved the beginning of their journey quite a bit—but by the time the book really got going? Oh god. By the end, I felt so happy for Mildmay and Felix, like my heart was lifting and spreading wings. It’s not a get-up-and-dance-and-squee kind of happy—it’s a sort of gentle sense of hope and rightness and the internal equivalent of a grin that wont’ fucking go away. Because those boys, they’ve worked so fucking hard for a happy ending, and they got one, dammit, they’ve got one and while I’d’ve liked to see Mehitabel and Vincent, and more Mildmay than was in there, I can see why Monette would make the call for them to take the back seat a bit because Mirador was Mildmay’s book and it makes sense that this book would be about Felix. This series’ strength has ever been the characters, rather than the plot (perhaps natural, considering the nature of its rotating first person POV) and oh god, I can’t even properly express myself here. FELIX, YOU ARE CHANGING AND BEING HAPPY AND A;DKAJSLDF OH GOD I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU I CANNOT EVEN DEAL.

It was worth the wait, to read this thing in one sitting. Oh, boys. I’m so, so, happy for you both.

BRB, off to reread.


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Random DoL Meta Scraps 5/5

January 2, 2009 at 11:54 pm (Miscellaneous Meta) ()

Let’s play a game: how many literary tropes is the Doctrine of Labyrinths series subverting at the same time? Spoilers for all three books, last bit of DoL meta spam yay!

1. Fiery-tempered redheads (‘cause god damn does Felix have a temper, and not in a cute, amusing way. More like a “beat a random guy bloody and abuse his position as a top” kind of way. Even Mildmay has a temper, and he’s probably just as violent as Felix, though he’s a hell of a lot better as keeping it under control.)

2. Long-lost siblings finding each other

3. Mystical bonds binding people together for life (As in Wheel of Time: think of the Aes Sedai Bonding Warders. The roles of the esclavin and obligataire in the obligation d’ame are also flipped from that of the Warder Bond. The Warder—the ordinary person bonded to the magic user—is the one who is supposed to protect; in the obligation d’ame, it’s the obligataire—the magic user doing the bonding—who is the protector.)

4. Use of a lover to blackmail someone into doing something (Mehitabel and her Hallam; the subversion is more from how that particular plotline plays out than the actual use of the trope. Mehitabel plays along and confesses all only when it’s that or watch Felix and Mildmay die; there are no daring rescues or dramatic breakings of ties and no protracted angst. Straightforward plots, I’m telling you.)

5. The heroic archetype period. Which, you know, is not anything new, but Felix definitely falls under the heading of anti-hero.

6. The story of the street kid done good. I’m sure Felix is not amused by this at all, but I am. :D

7. Using an actor as a spy! Go Mehitabel.

Probably more but these are just off the top of my head.

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Random DoL Meta Scraps 4/?

January 2, 2009 at 11:51 pm (Miscellaneous Meta) (, )

Two separate things here: a bit on Felix/Gideon and the age difference, and another bit that compares Felix to Rand al’Thor from the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. Spoilers for all three books, natch.

Felix and Gideon were fifteen years apart too, but—I dunno, because Felix was so obviously the one in control despite being the younger one, it felt less creepy than Royston/Hal. Maybe because Felix didn’t really care and never really dwelt on it, so I as the reader never really put much thought to it either (though Gideon did, if his outburst in The Mirador is anything to go by.). Which is kind of creepy in of itself, now that I think on it, though when you consider how much older Malkar was while he was screwing Felix and the age differences between Felix during his time as a prostitute and his patrons…At least he and Gideon are both, you know, sane adults capable of giving informed consent as to whether or not to engage in sexual intercourse with each other. Fifteen year age differences probably didn’t mean very much to Felix once they’d cross that particular hurdle. This is part of my rationale why it’s not the incest part that squicks Felix about having the hots for Mildmay; what squicks him is the fact that he doesn’t care about the incest, and that he’s afraid that he’s an awful enough person to abuse the obligation d’ame to get what he wants.


Felix Harrowgate as the anti-Rand al’Thor:

1. Red hair, strange-colored eyes, and stature mark them as outsiders

2. His long lost mother was a slut, not a queen. She ran away to a far off place and joined a far off people to become a prostitute, while Rand’s mother joined the Aiel and was honored by becoming the chief’s wife.

3. His “father” made him who he was through abuse rather than fatherly concern and imparting of values and whatnot.

4. His position of power is cemented by mending a magical artifact in the middle of a citadel rather than breaking it. Rand’s version is the sword thingy in Tear with all of its wards that he rips apart. You can tell how long it’s been since I’ve touch the books. :D

5. Rand’s story is that of a hero and leader being forced to ever greater heights; Felix’s story is how he can’t catch a fucking break and keeps getting run out of the Mirador as a criminal when all he wants to do was stay

6. All of Rand’s mentor-type figures have at least semi-altruistic intentions. None of Felix’s mentor-types had anything even remotely close.

7. Felix is gay. Rand is straight. Both of them have problems with monogamy.

8. Felix’s practice of magic is largely orthodox and acceptable (…in his corner of the world, at least); Rand’s practice of magic is anathema everywhere (or at least, it was. Maybe still is, a little.).

(side note: the concept of the Khloidanikos is similar to the concept of the dream world in the Wheel of Time whose name I cannot remember. Tel’aran’rhiod?)

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Random DoL Meta Scraps 3/?

January 2, 2009 at 11:45 pm (Miscellaneous Meta) ()

A comparison of Felix and Mildmay’s tempers and how they deal with them that goes on to include some more analysis of Felix and a bit about his sexual predilections. Even when he’s not supposed to be the focus he steals the show. -____- Spoilers for the first three books.

Both Felix and Mildmay have bad tempers and violent tendencies. They deal with it in very different ways, though

Mildmay does seem more level-headed of the brothers but he does admit to having a temper, because Felix can get him angry. And he does admit to sometimes being so mad he wants to hurt Felix, to watch him bleed. However, he’s very good at controlling that temper, at knowing when he needs to cool off and knowing how to avoid situations that could lead to his temper flaring (ie. not letting Felix pick fights with him when Felix is in the fight pickin’ mood). And when he really does need to let off steam, he does it by sublimating the need to do violence entirely—case in point, The Virtu, after he’s pissed at Felix for sending him off to lead the thugs away from Arakhne. He’s angry and he wants Felix to hurt—so he goes out to find a whore, and he releases all his pent-up frustration and need to act against someone else by fucking her.

You might say that Felix does much the same—when his anger flares (or as he says, his black rages come upon him) he also sublimates the anger. However, unlike Mildmay, he doesn’t sublimate the urge, he merely substitutes the victim. When he gets angry, he goes off to the Arcane to beat and fuck a martyr. It’s very different from what Mildmay does, because Mildmay is aware of what his anger wants him to do and, because he is, he is safely able to let it off in a way that isn’t harmful to himself or those around him. Felix does not have that level of self-awareness and control. He is simply consumed by rage and doesn’t know what to do with it. Fucking martyrs isn’t the same thing as what Mildmay did with the whore in The Virtu because Felix is still giving in to the impulse to do violence. The sex and arousal is a byproduct of that.

(It’s unclear whether violence period is what gets Felix hard or whether it’s violence in the context of tarquins and martyrs that gets him hard. If the latter, his arousal may be a response engendered by his past as a prostitute in the Shining Tiger where he was forced to be the martyr, and his past with Malkar (Felix admits Malkar has informed all of his sexual responses, presumably including his sadism.). It’s not quite the same as being naturally aroused by the infliction of pain upon another; the latter suggests he’s been trained to/trained himself to respond to it, either as a coping mechanism or simply through constant exposure to the tarquin/martyr environment throughout his youth.)

You could say that Felix turning to tarquins and martyrs is a way for him to take what he doesn’t understand—his rages and occasional rage blackouts—and putting it into terms that he does, by framing his rage and desire to harm another in the sexual framework of tarquins and martyrs, which is something that Felix does understand, perhaps all too well. Even when Felix feels like he’s in control of himself (and let us be frank: The Virtu and The Mirador present the only two (three if you count the year he was mad) years out of his entire life that he’s been truly free of Malkar or someone else’s control, as opposed to just believing he was free the way he did before Melusine) he isn’t, not really. He doesn’t understand himself the way Mildmay does; furthermore, he keeps trying to distance himself from his past self in a way Mildmay doesn’t. Mildmay’s life is one of continuity; what happened to him and what he did under his Keeper is relevant to who he is and what he does now (as seen in his epiphanies about why he kills and the deeper reason behind him asking for the obligation d’ame). For Felix…that’s not how his life works, that’s not how his memory works. What happened then has no bearing on who he is now. He won’t let it matter to who he is now.

Because Felix refuses to acknowledge or dwell on his past he can’t resolve it. He’s fractured himself into a Then and Now and he refuses to reconcile the two or to even consider attempting to. He’s made a little headway—his admission to Mildmay about fearing Keeper more than the Sim, and his realization that he fears Keeper because it represents his own insecurity about being able to save himself from his own danger. But he’s not yet at the stage where Mildmay is, being able to reflect on the past to inform his present and guide his future (ie. Mildmay’s refuses to kill Isaac Garamond despite the obligation d’ame because it’s not right for him to kill people in order to earn the affection/praise/attention of others.).

Felix is only starting to come to terms with how his past has affected his present self. He’s not yet at the point where he can use what he knows about himself to guide how he acts in the future. Hence his constant betrayals of Mildmay, both major and minor, and his inability to stick to his resolution to make his relationship with Gideon work. He admits that he can’t change and he’ll always be arrogant and cruel and quarrelsome and argumentative. But is the reason he can’t change because he was always like that, or is it because he doesn’t yet know himself well enough to find the root of his cruelty and affect change in himself from there? It sounds kind of hokey, I know. Know thyself and all that crap. But maybe that is what he needs to do. Maybe Felix needs to resolve the rift between Felix-as-prostitute, Felix-as-apprentice and Felix-as-wizard. Because it’s not like he doesn’t want to change—he does. He wanted to make his relationship with Gideon work. He wants not to be cruel to Mildmay, he wants to be worthy of Mildmay’s trust and to feel worthy of his love. It’s just that Felix doesn’t think he can change. He’s stuck in a rut and doesn’t know how to get out.

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Random DoL Meta Scraps 2/?

January 2, 2009 at 1:31 am (Miscellaneous Meta) ()

Some speculations for the fourth book, Corambis. Spoilers for the previous three books.

1. I bet the plot’s going to be about that labyrinth-engine Gideon mentioned in…The Virtu, I think it was. Where he said in ancient days there was a labyrinth that could channel magic into an engine; Corambis is going to be about an ancient weapon, and labyrinths and death are a running theme, so you can see how the two might be connected.

2. Also it occurred to me that the road to Corambis might be the only time since the books have begun that Felix and Mildmay have been alone together. Oh, in Melusine they were on the way to the Gardens of Nephele but Felix was bonkers at the time so it doesn’t count. And on the way back in The Virtu they picked up Mehitabel, and then Gideon, Mavortian, and Bernard, so they never were really alone together, except for snatches here and there. And in The Mirador they were beset on all sides by Felix’s friends, duties as a Cabaline, and of course Gideon living in their suite, so you know. They’ve never really been alone, always had other people as a distraction or an excuse not to talk and work out their myriad problems. And I mean, on the way to Corambis they’ve got the Convocation’s judgment to worry about and then whatever plot Monette’s got in store for them but man, on the way there? They’re stuck on the road. Just the two of them. And I really hope it helps them.

3. Maybe it makes me a terrible person but I want to the incest thread to be picked up again. It was kind of a running theme throughout The Virtu, an extra layer of complications to their relationship. And in The Mirador…it was mentioned once, briefly, obtusely, but that was it. Nothing explicit or clear as to whether it was just hanging out there, or whether Felix had managed to sort of shove aside his desire for Mildmay in the face of his new duties, Gideon, Malkar’s rubies, and his worsening temper. It was there and gone, and it needs to be resolved. Hopefully not by them screwing each other but they really need to come to some kind of consensus other than Felix going “I won’t rape you” while knowing Mildmay doesn’t trust him. So I’d like to see that picked up and wrapped up, though I’m afraid that maybe it won’t be, it’ll just be left there to lie, and I don’t want that to happen.

4. And I hope they manage to find a place where they can both be happy. Because the places where Felix was happy—the Gardens of Nephele, the Mirador—are places where Mildmay isn’t, and the place where Mildmay might be happy—the Lower City—is a place where he can’t go anymore and where Felix isn’t happy, so. They need to come to a balance, in the end, they need to find some middle ground and reach it and if they both die fulfilling their destiny (to paraphrase Amazon) I will be seriously put out. They’ve gone through too much to be rewarded by dying for some grand plan neither of them know the first thing about until the last book in their series. They deserve something better, and that’s not how life works, but they are characters in a novel and I’d at least like for them to have something optimistic. The thought that dying together might be the only way to solve all their problems is one I refuse to contemplate at length. Let them be happy, and let them be happy in a way that doesn’t require them to be dead.

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Random DoL Meta Scraps 1/?

January 2, 2009 at 1:30 am (Miscellaneous Meta) ()

A bit of Felix and Mildmay comparison + a bit on their relationship (spoilers for all three books)

I’m re-reading The Virtu right now and will probably reread The Mirador, and I’ve realized that whenever Felix uses the word darling it’s when he’s deliberately trying to hurt or be catty or cruel, and it’s something he picked up from Malkar (who does the exact same thing to him all the time) and is the shadow of Malkar showing through in him. By the same token Mildmay thinks something that includes the nickname Milly-Fox it’s only when he’s putting himself down, and it’s a hold-over from when he was a kept-thief and his Keeper, Kolkhis, would use the nickname to do the same thing.

God, both Mildmay and Felix are free of the Keepers but they aren’t, not really. Felix is still afraid of the Sim and of the memories Malkar left him with, Mildmay puts himself down in his Keeper’s voice and he does it all the fucking time, even when he doesn’t explicitly state that he’s hearing the words in her voice. It kind of hurts to read, and it hurts even more to read Felix’s sections and see all the places where he thinks Mildmay’s really great and mentally compliments him and where he thinks about defending Mildmay or taking Mildmay’s side and then doesn’t do a damn thing. It’s like he has all these great ephiphanies about himself and their relationship and then utterly fails to follow through. It’s so frustrating.

At the same time, though, Mildmay never really says why he loves Felix and would rather stay by his side and suffer than leave and uh, also suffer, but at least without the obligation d’ame hanging over him. All he does is burst out with these random declarations of loyalty that completely confound Felix because he can’t see how Mildmay could possibly feel any of that for someone like him. I mean, it’s all well and good, but it’s reasonless, and all it does is confuse; it doesn’t tell Felix what about him is worth loving and putting up with him, just that he’s worth it. Which I think scares him more than anything because what if what Mildmay is seeing that makes being Felix’s slave worth it is something Felix is making up to prettify himself? The only time Mildmay ever brings out one of his myriad, accurate observations about Felix is when he’s angry and wants to throw Felix’s faults in his face. And Felix knows that Mildmay’s right but that just scares him more because if Mildmay can see the bad than he can see the good and what, exactly, does Felix have in him that is good and worth loving? Or maybe, you know, he’s just not good at being read and deciphered, at anyone being able to penetrate his defenses so accurately and cruelly.

They are both so bad at communicating; they both hate themselves even as they love each other, but their mutual self-loathing bleeds into their love and stains it, twists it; they’re tied to each other by force and by choice but it’s not easy for either of them, and they don’t make it easy on each other, either.

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Ode to Felix Harrowgate

January 2, 2009 at 1:15 am (Character Focus) (, )

This is really, really long. It’s basically a long ramble where I try to suss out my feelings about Felix, so if you don’t like him this is probably not a post you want to be reading. That being said, this sucker is approx. 4500 words so be prepared.

Topics I cover, in order: Felix’s basic personality, why I don’t ship Felix/Mildmay, Felix’s attitude towards sex and his relationship with Gideon, more on why I don’t ship Felix/Mildmay, some stuff on Felix and his secrets.

Spoilers for Melusine, The Virtu and The Mirador.

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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.

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