So, I’ve been feeling quite meh recently, which was definitely reflected in my reading speed for The Court of Miracles. However, I don’t know whether it was me, or this book, but I also went away feeling quite meh about this book, sadly.
Title: The Court of Miracles
Series: A Court of Miracles #1
Author: Kester Grant
Ownership: e-ARC provided by the publisher
Publisher: Harper Voyager (Harper Collins)
Publication Date: 4th June 2020
Rating: 3 stars
In the dark days following a failed French Revolution, in the violent jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, young cat-burglar Eponine (Nina) Thenardier goes head to head with merciless royalty, and the lords of the city’s criminal underworld to save the life of her adopted sister Cosette (Ettie).
Her vow will take her from the city’s dark underbelly, through a dawning revolution, to the very heart of the glittering court of Louis XVII, where she must make an impossible choice between guild, blood, betrayal and war.
Part of my problem with this book is that it has been lauded as so many things. A retelling of Les Miserables, complete with slightly adjusted character names, a re-imagining of The Jungle Book (please tell me where this was – I completely missed it), as well as being likened to Six of Crows (haven’t read it – will do at some point), and Caraval (enjoyed it but found it a bit smug). THAT’S TOO MANY THINGS. WHY CAN’T IT JUST BE A BOOK BY ITSELF??
And the problem then for me is that I spend most of the book trying to hold the plot of all these other books and stories that its been likened to in my head, and comparing them with the story. That takes away from my actual enjoyment of the story, as I can’t tell whether it is supposed to deviate or emulate the original tale. I enjoy a fairy tale retelling where just one story is the focus, but this … didn’t work for my brain.
I actually really liked the story – of a criminal underworld (that appears to have unlimited power and unlimited poverty – not quite sure of the balance there) where a young woman is fighting to save her sister(s).
Nina herself was good – she was tough and gritty and perfectly fitted the character that I imagined for a cat burglar. She’s fiercely protective of her adopted family and out for vengeance on The Tiger, who took her sister by blood.
HOWEVER, Ettie … Ettie was beautiful and naive and stupid and vain and twittering and everything that is annoying about an attractive air-headed character. Ettied is Nina’s adopted sister and there was a moment early on when Nina considered giving Ettie up to The Tiger as a prize to get her own sister back. If only she had … because Ettie added very little to the story except for pointing out when she thought men were attracted to Nina.
And obviously the three main male players in this story have a thing for Nina, even when Ettie is SO beautiful…
I’m also a little saddened by how Javert was re-imagined. First, Javert becomes a woman – fine – but the utter complexity of the character is taken away by this choice as Javert becomes more of a fallen woman, out for revenge again Jean Valjean (24601), rather than someone trapped by their own need to follow the law. (There was even a side reference to Javert’s fate in Les Mis that made me snort, and then be even more disappointed when nothing came of it). And I don’t mind that the story diverted away from these characters, but it took away all of the powerful agency that’s normally contained in them.
I also didn’t understand how Javert, as a woman, held a position of rank and authority in this novel when EVERYONE ELSE followed a more ‘historical fantasy’ approach to women i.e. whores and street thieves.
So yeah, it was fun, and I liked the story itself but, just like the many things that this book was compared with, there were times when the whole narrative felt like three different books pieced together. And personally I would have preferred three books told well rather than one that felt a little cobbled together.
I’d much rather the comparison wasn’t there so I could try and enjoy this book in its own right.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.