No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Monday, December 17, 2007

#73: The Mirador -- Sarah Monette

I read this the day it arrived -- Halloween -- but have been busy on other projects since then, with the result that this blog's out of date; I have quite a few reviews to write and post; and I'm writing about a book that is Ancient History as far as my memories go.

That said, I do remember enjoying it enormously ...

The Mirador is the third of four, and in some ways it feels as though Monette's marking time: we don't yet get to see how these plot threads spin out, in the way that many floating plot elements in Melusine were resolved in The Virtu. This third book introduces a new POV (the redoubtable, and likeably flawed, Mehitabel) and takes some of the focus from the intense relationship between brothers Felix and Mildmay, who spend much of their time trying to avoid one another, not always successfully. It's a chance to see that relationship from the outside, and Mehitabel's perception of Felix is (or becomes) much clearer than Mildmay's ever was. Mind you, Mehitabel's perception of herself is, at times, damningly clear. She's an actress with a string of lovers, a woman who makes no bones about being a social climber. That's simply how things are. And it has to be said that Mehitabel acts more, in the sense of causing things to happen, than either Felix or Mildmay, who tend to react. Which is part of the problem.

The Mirador begins two years after the events of The Virtu, and what I thought was an unforgiveable act turns out not to have been so. Though it hasn't been forgiven, as such: Mildmay is not thinking about it, and he's not-thinking so hard that at times the reader is hard-pressed to remember just how abusive Felix has been.

Mildmay, bored and lonely and with a lot of bad memories to suppress, naturally goes out and finds himself a new intrigue: the case of Guinevere Dawnlight, formerly Jenny, who's been imprisoned for digging up a corpse from the oldest graveyard in Melusine but won't say why. There's also the matter of another grave, deep beneath the Mirador, that can't possibly be the final resting place of the lady named on the plaque: or can it?

It all comes back to Mildmay's former thief-keeper, Kolkhis, and Vey Coruscant, the blood-witch who Mildmay crossed (Melusine) and assassinated (The Virtu). Confronting Kolkhis -- unwithered and unstaled and thoroughly unsavoury -- Mildmay finds himself making some connections, facing up to some unpleasant aspects of his bond with Felix, and not making himself one whit happier.

Felix is thoroughly unpleasant, high-handed and arrogant, yet with a certain breezy style (and disregard for popular opinion) that's oddly endearing. There's one passage where something very bad has happened, and Felix has done something very bad: and we're not quite sure if those two bad things are one and the same. But then each of the POV characters is up to no good in his or her way. Mildmay, thief and assassin, is the most honest and straightforward of the three. Except with himself.

Minor characters from the previous books are fleshed out. Kolkhis; Lord Stephen; his brother Shannon, Felix's ex. The entire novel is set within Melusine -- largely within the Mirador, that vast windowless fortress-court -- or within a stone's throw of the city walls. That probably contributes to the sense of claustrophobia.

I don't want to explore the plot in too much detail: I'd rather think about the setting. The Mirador, with its improbable coincidences, its ghosts and tombs and intrigues, is like a knot, like a maze: mazes are important here, and Mildmay's gift for finding his way anywhere (almost anywhere: "only ever gotten lost once in my whole life, and there's a couple different ways that wasn't my fault") is certain to come to the fore again. I want to see how that unravels. I want more of the legend of Heth-Eskaladen, the librarian-god whose descent to Hell is commemorated by the Trials every four years, a Lower City festival strong on mazes. I want more about Malkar: where he came from, just how many times he pulled that trick of his, and why Felix, turning up the card of the Dog in his Sybilline reading, seems to have forgotten that when he was mad he saw Malkar as a dog-headed monster. I want more about the distinction between noirant and clairant magics, and how they're different from simplistic Bad and Good. (Noirant is "the magic of labyrinths, of things that are tangled and lost and dark".)

'I want' never got. But Corambis, last in the series, is due in 2009.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review. I discovered Sarah Monette earlier this year through being on a panel with her at Wiscon and then buying all her books. I did think that she is just the sort of author you used to find for me/ us in Acnestis.

    I've really enjoyed this series too - in fact I'm going to see how many of them I can put in my "Top 5 books of the year".