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Mélusine — a city of secrets and lies, pleasure and pain, magic and corruption — and destinies lost and found.
Felix Harrowgate is a dashing, highly respected wizard. But his aristocratic peers don’t know his dark past — how his abusive former master enslaved him, body and soul, and trained him to pass as a nobleman. Within the walls of the Mirador — Melusine’s citadel of power and wizardry — Felix believed he was safe. He was wrong. Now, the horrors of his previous life have found him and threaten to destroy all he has since become.
Mildmay the Fox is used to being hunted. Raised as a kept-thief and trained as an assassin, he escaped his Keeper long ago and lives on his own as a cat burglar. But now he has been caught by a mysterious foreign wizard using a powerful calling charm. And yet the wizard was looking not for Mildmay — but for Felix Harrowgate.” Thrown together by fate, the broken wizard Felix and the wanted killer Mildmay journey far from Melusine through lands thick with strange magics and terrible demons of darkness. But it is the shocking secret from their pasts, linking them inexorably together, that will either save them, or destroy them.
Melusine is a very difficult book to review, especially for a M/M book blog. As a high fantasy adventure, I would say this book is top-notch. As a M/M romance, I would give it a two thumbs…down. But regardless of how one would tag this story, my recommendation is this: patience.
Taking place in a fantasy world, the book follows two different characters in their own respective and separate yet slowly intertwining, plots. Felix is a powerful wizard of Melusine, with a past that he had escaped for the past six years. It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances that lead to Felix being accused of an act that has shattered the foundation of Melusine, and sent him spiraling into an abyss of madness. He is living in a world of delusions, ghosts, and colors.
On the other hand, you have Mildmay – thief and assassin of Melusine. To be honest, Mildmay’s story is difficult to vaguely summarize, as much of it would be spoilerish. Let’s just say that much of his story is just him living his normal life as a cat burglar with events that barely touches path with Felix. Of the two main characters, Mildmay was definitely my favorite. He’s blunt, down-to-earth, and has a sense of humor, while Felix’s personality is hard to hone down due to his mental affliction.
When I say you follow these two characters in their separate story lines, I really do mean SEPARATE. Because these characters don’t actually meet until 60% into the book. So patience being a virtue here is definitely important. Did I get grumpy towards 50%? Hell yeah. I wanted to scream at the book when these characters were so close to meeting, but last second circumstances drive them apart. It was definitely a point of annoyance for me. At the same time, this compelled me to read even more for their eventual meeting. Perhaps that was the author’s intention?
Melusine is definitely high fantasy in the best way: great world building laced with its own languages, idioms, culture and laws. None of it is explained (I believe there is a word glossary in the beginning, but it isn’t complete). You experience the world through the familiarity of Mildmay’s adventures through the city and Felix’s maddness laced point of view. While it’s confusing as hell in the beginning, it’s still the best way to experience such a vast world of wizards, ghouls, ghosts, spirits, blood magic and necromancy.
In terms of the plot, I would say that Melusine is just the beginning of something much bigger. Unfortunately, this book seemed more like the setup for things to come and the pacing suffered for it. Does that mean it was boring? Some of the time, sure. But the book picks up the pace just when I feel like nodding off at times.
If you are looking for a M/M romance, look the other way. This whole paragraph may be considered a spoiler, so I would skip it if you want to avoid it. Still here? Okay then. Sure, Felix is a homosexual character, but there is absolutely no romance in this book. Not between the two main characters, and none with the others as well. In fact Mildmay is completely heterosexual. I wouldn’t have minded so much if this book wasn’t tagged as “M/M Romance” on Goodreads. But when a book is tagged with “romance,” I kind of expect such a thing. So this is pretty much a M/M book without the romance (which to me just felt like another high fantasy book).
Regardless of such, the relationship between the two main characters was actually endearing. Unfortunately, we only see just the beginning of this as the book ends not too long after.
My only other big complaint of this book was the horrible proofing. I don’t really know how to describe it, since it felt more like an ebook publishing error than anything else. It felt like someone took the paperback/hardback pages of the book, scanned it to a computer, then used a cheap OCR program to make it into an ebook, then failed to make sure that the recognition software was accurate. What resulted are sentences missing their period, random capitalization of words in the middle of a sentence, zeros instead of o’s (e.g. “0pen the door”), and some sentences that just didn’t make sense at all. It got really bad towards the middle of the book, and less frequent towards the end. It really pissed me off, since the writing itself was superb, but the formatting issued kind of killed it.
Regardless of the major issues I had with Melusine, I still really enjoyed it for what I came to realize was a great high-fantasy story of two people who were destined to meet. If you have the patience for it, Melusine is really a gem. But as a M/M romance reader, I would tell you to look elsewhere.
Title: Melusine (Doctrine of Labyrinths #1)
Author: Sarah Monette
Release Date: June 27, 2006
Purchase Links: Amazon