Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.
In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.
Let me start off by saying that this had potential. Truly, it did. It might not immediately come across as such, with the typical YA fantasy name, and being compared to the current most popular books in that genre. But it had the potential to take those well loved things, and make it it’s own. The Court of Miracles tried to do this by drawing allusion to other popular literary texts (Les Mis, The Jungle Book) and by telling an alternate history. Exciting, right? Sadly not.
This probably makes me a terrible literature student, but I have never read Les Misérables, or seen any adaption, nor do I intend to. I am also only vaguely familiar with The Jungle Book, my familiarity stemming from seeing the film as a child (I have never read the book, or watched any recent adaptations).
Thus, the many allusions that this book utilised were lost on me. The characters, whose backstories I imagined where drawn from the original canon, were not familiar to me. I wondered, while reading, that if I was aware would I enjoy this more?
And there lies the issue. Should I have to be familiar with those texts to get the full possible enjoyment out of this? Should I have to be familiar with the canon it is influenced by, to understand what is going on? No, I don’t think so.
Sure, for fans of the originals – or at least those more familiar than me – it should give them something extra, like the feeling of picking up on a clue the author dropped, but the novel should not rely on it – those allusions to the canon – to make the novel for it.
Thus, that was my first issue, which stemmed in to my others.
The plot jumped around so, so much! From narrative, to the narrative structure, to characterisation! It was hard to keep up, and thus hard to care.
The book opens with Nina being forced to leave her sister, having to join the world of The Miracle Courts that was foreign to her, yet so familiar. It happened so quickly, without any development. Even though there was so much action, which should have been promising me a fast, quick paced read, it felt weak. I told myself that it was just the beginning, and it would get better.
And then there was a time jump. Three months I think? And we are now introduced to a Nina, different to the one we first met in that small instant. We had barely gotten to know her then; and we definitely don’t know her now. But she want from being initiated, to bragging about how amazing she is as a thief, and all these dark plans she had.
Which, fine. But no characterisation. No development.
The book goes through several time jumps like this. The next, three years (I think?). And again, Nina has grown in to this character, and has all these plans she vaguely refers to, and all these deep relationships with people…yet you don’t feel them. Because everytime one of the sections of the book gets started, and you start to connect, it jump starts again.
And while its dealing with romance, and death, and sisterhood, and coming-of-age, and parental relationships, it hardly holds any gravitas. All these big, emotional reveals mean nothing. The plot was out of touch, the MC achieving goals, to then have them ripped away, to then do something else, to then have to restart – and even though it remained the same (save her sister(s)) it never actually felt consistent. (Probably because at one stage she basically did her goal, and I was like oh. Well, that was quick, BUT WHERE WILL THIS GO? and then yeah. That didn’t work out and it just carried on).
This just felt like a very, very, very, very rough draft. It wasn’t cohesive in terms of narrative, the plot was poorly paced and not developed, as well as the characters. It’s a shame, really, because I felt like this could have been a great book, if only the author stopped to pause and tell her story – rather than race through it.
I have read an ARC copy, and it is my hope that by the time of publication the novel has been better edited, and changes made, to help it reach it’s full potential. Because this has it in it to be an entertaining, thrilling read. But right now, it has not reached that point.
Thank you Netgalley and HarperCollinsUK for this advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.