September 2nd, 2007


In a Nutshell: Books (Melusine and The Virtu by Sarah Monette)

... I still need to come up with a book-specific icon, don't I?

Anyhow. I was looking for some new fantasy to read recently, and after seeing desdenova review these, and seeing other people say Really Good Stuff about them, I figured I'd give them a try.

The result(1) was... mixed. On the one hand, I was left with some bad feelings from some of the flaws of the books, and not the unabated pleasure which I expected and hoped for. On the other hand, I totally devoured both books ravenously far too quickly, so that shows that I was still sucked into the story regardless.

Let's see, bad bits first I guess. First is that the first book, Melusine (there is an accent over that first e which I can never remember how to type and am way too lazy anyhow), is damned hard to read in some ways because of some Bad Shit that goes down. It's... well, profoundly disturbing in places, and while neither of the two main viewpoint characters is exactly in a Shiny Happy Fun Place, one of the characters is competely and totally screwed in that regard. And unlike some readers, I liked him, so that was tough.

Another thing that got in my way a bit is that because this is first-person narration, from two different viewpoints, the author throws a bunch of terms at us and doesn't bother to try to find some way to explain, y'know, what they are. And they're fairly big book-world concepts that come up again and again. I finally figured out, for example, that a septad is seven years (and this is important because it's used in describing characters' ages in their backhistory and so on), and that a Great Septad is (I'm almost sure) 49 years (or 49 whatevers, if it's not talking about time/age), which is 7x7. Or basically shorthand for 50 years, half a century. And I *think* an indiction is a year. But no where is this explained, or even really hinted at, so you're left floundering a bit until you grasp this.

I'm also don't really like the pacing. First off it's screwy because it's one story in two books more or less, which throws things off. But even then, the pacing seems just... odd. It's like it takes a while for the characters to get introduced, along with the world, then longer for them to get some goal, any goal, and a while longer while they get distracted on the way and try to figure out y'know just exactly what they DO want and what they're aiming for, and then there's a big huge hurdle in front of them and... oh, it's taken care of in a chapter or so... and then... well, you get the idea. And this was a concern in both books, especially the second where there was apparently one main goal, then it is passed, then there's another big concern that pops up and is taken care of over the course of the last few chapters of the book. It just left me wrong-footed, in a way.

Then there were other minor gripes about some things being too predictable and fantasy-cliche (well, one thing especially, but that left a sour taste), but the stuff above were the main gripes I had.

That being said... I still in balance enjoyed and was really absorbed in the books, and will probably get the next one, although I might wait until it's out in paperback. The characters are engaging, and Felix is an arrogant prick, but he has flair, damnit. And, underneath the surface, a good heart. Even if it mostly only shows when his guard is down. And Mildmay is also wonderful. And the world is interesting, and I really enjoy totally character-driven stories like this one (although maybe a leeetle more in the way of actual action and plot and stuff would have been nice).

Plus, it's also nice to see a fantasy novel that doesn't seem to want to trumpet the fact, or make it *all about* that, or something. And I totally love the term "molly" for some reason.

Yes, I realize that the plusses look a lot less than the minuses but... that's probably because I feel less need to bitch about them. :p Plus I'm getting a bit hungry and am wanting to finish the review. ;)

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I cannot, of course, promise that comments will be unspoily, so... you have been warned.

(1)I first started to typo this as "reslut" which is... appropriate given that the review will talk about Felix.