Hello Humans! I’m here to review a book that was plastered all over my social media and about which I was a little suspicious. You’ve clicked on the post, you know I’m talking about The Court of Miracles – so why was I suspicious? Well…the level of hype this book was getting on social media really reminded me of just how intense the hype was around the release of Caraval and while I got very sucked into that hype – looking back the book was just sort of…ok. A lot of concept with not a lot of execution.
Now take me to revolutionary France and there will be quite a bit of execution…
But I was lucky enough to receive a digital review copy of The Court of Miracles so I thought I’d give it a go a see if it lived up to the hype.
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.
At first I was a little confused – why was a book that was so clearly taking inspiration from Les Miserables using a song from The Hunchback of Notre Dame as the title. But, like a dutiful bookish person I looked it up and apparently Cour des miracles was the term used to refer to the slum districts of Paris – because it was put about that so many of the people begging for alms would be pretending to have more ailments than they actually had that there were miracles of the lame walking and the blind being able to see every day. Grant takes this idea of the part of the city where the poor live, but turns it into a set of guilds, running the darker underside of the city.
That aspect of the worldbuilding was probably my favourite part of this book. I love any fantasy book that explores gangs and loyalty and criminal families and so on. I thought that Grant managed to capture that in an interesting way, and the way that Nina not only had to fight the laws of the land but also the laws of the gangs was a great way to keep things fresh and to create conflict within the story.
I also really enjoyed Nina as a character, I liked that, while she did have a clear motivation, it wasn’t single-minded – she watches over her sister but she doesn’t try to keep her completely naive of the world they live in. She expects things from other people but she trusts herself overall. I thought Nina was a great YA criminal heroine who uses her strengths – both intellectual and physical – to her own advantage.
I should have utterly adored this book. So why did it only get three stars?
BECAUSE WHY WERE THE CHARACTERS NAMED AFTER CHARACTERS FROM LES MIS?
I have pondered this for days. I have thought long and hard as to what that added to the story? What did it bring to a narrative that was otherwise very different from Les Mis – I mean yes the events of Les Mis happen to a certain extent – but for the most part it’s drastically different. I should say, I have yet to read the original novel, so perhaps more things were similar than I think they were. But at one point one of the characters actually says a line from one of the songs in the musical and I have yet to find that it was also a quote from the book? I think this book would have been exactly the same had you renamed some of the characters and maybe not had the weird Enjolras love interest (especially since I firmly believe Enjolras was gay so that’s even weirder?).
The parts of this book that are completely different from Les Mis – the gang hideouts and the prison break to name a couple – are by far the best parts of the book and they’re dampened by this weird…alternate universe Les Mis is happening subplot. I think I would have minded much less if Nina wasn’t Eponine and Ettie wasn’t Cosette and you just had Les Mis happening in the background of things – that might have been an interesting angle, but you can’t have half original story and half retelling without me getting very confused and frustrated.
The more I think about it the more annoyed I get – and I genuinely don’t know if it would be different if you’d never encountered anything about Les Mis ever…but even then there were weird things – can it be a historical fantasy account of the revolution if you also have women police inspectors (gender flipping Jarvert only to make her be broken hearted over her ex Jean Valjean is another strike against this book)?
I am wholeheartedly confused. Because some of this book is great. And some of this book is weird Les Mis AU and I want to recommend it to people for the parts that are great but how do I explain the weirdness?
I think you’ll have to all read it and we can come to a consensus together.
My rating: 3/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.
The Court of Miracles is out June 4th (at the time of writing)
What say you? Will you read this and tell me if I’m being ridiculous? Bonus points if you’ve read the original novel…