Monette, Sarah: (03) The Mirador

Sarah Monette’s novel The Mirador (forthcoming, August 7th; I read an ARC) is a sequel to Mélusine and The Virtu, but differs in some important ways from that duology.

The most obvious difference is the inclusion of a third first-person point of view, that of Mehitabel Parr. Introduced in The Virtu, she is almost immediately revealed as an unwilling spy for the Bastion, the Mirador’s bitter enemy. I consider Mehitabel’s POV an excellent addition: she’s smart and sharp and provides a useful additional perspective on Mélusine society (particularly the Teverii, two-thirds of whom acquire a welcome though perhaps belated depth as a result).

Also, of course, Mehitabel provides plot: she’s been reactivated as a spy because the Bastion is preparing for . . . something. And there is another difference: the nature of the plot. In the first duology, the nature of the plot was apparent from early on: there’s a broken Virtu and an insane Felix; can they can be fixed? On the other hand, in The Mirador, the ultimate direction or goal of events is not immediately apparent. Mehitabel discovers that the Bastion is planning something, but does not know what. Mildmay attempts to shed his obsession with a dead woman by investigating her death, and finds himself among those of uncertain motive. And Felix fears the return of his former master, but does not know whether it is possible. As a result, the book’s pace again felt slightly leisurely to me, this time as I waited for the mysteries’ solutions to be revealed.

The Mirador‘s plot further differs in the amount of closure. Though it also opens a duology, which I suspect will be U-shaped, it stands alone much better than Mélusine does. That is, while the direction of the plot may not be immediately clear, by the end, it’s either wrapped up or pointed in a definite direction. [*] There is one possible exception, a matter that could be either plot or decoration. If it turns out to be plot, I’m not sure what the long-term consequences will be, but I anticipate there being plenty of time for that.

[*] A more subtle way in which this book has greater closure is how small matters from the beginning are referenced but inverted at the end. I thought this was awfully cool, though perhaps I’m just overly-proud of myself for noticing.

I think this greater closure will probably make the wait for the concluding book, Summerdown, more bearable. Whether it makes The Mirador a better place to start reading is less clear. On one hand, I wasn’t reading with an eye toward whether the book would be comprehensible to a new reader. On the other, The Mirador starts with Felix and Mildmay in pretty bad emotional shape—not as bad as Felix’s madness at the beginning of Mélusine, but still bad in a way that may not grab an unfamiliar reader. If someone tries it, I hope they’ll report back on their experience, but I won’t go so far as to recommend it.

Speaking of characters being in bad emotional shape, Mildmay fans should be pleased to hear that he’s much more active in dealing with his angst in this book and accomplishes a great deal. (I was very pleased.) And he’s still a great narrator. As a small example, I was tickled pink by his comment, about Robert of Hermione, that “Felix hated him like there wasn’t nobody else around who’d do it right”; it just seems so apt.

Unfortunately I found another central character, Gideon, to be less vivid than he should be, which lessened some of the book’s force. I’m not sure why this was the case. The limitations of first-person point-of-view mean that some of his motivations are mysteries, but there’s a good deal of other detail about his personality—yet I had to flip back through the series to remind myself that it existed, because it just doesn’t seem to stick. Whether the lack is in me or the book, it’s not ideal.

Other than Gideon, though, and with the necessary caveats about reading the first half of a duology, I thought The Mirador was an excellent follow-up to Mélusine and The Virtu. I don’t feel authoritative enough to say that it’s objectively better than its predecessors—though I will assert that it’s not worse—but I can say that I liked it even more, and I’m greatly anticipating Summerdown.

12 Comments

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  1. I’m so jealous that you got your hands on Mirador! I’m glad to hear that Mildmay actually gets to deal a little with his angst; I love Mildmay angst, but really. The last book just didn’t let up on the guy.
    I’m really looking forward to this now.

  2. I hope you like it as much as I did!

  3. Those moaning noises you hear are me, agonizing over the three-week wait remaining before I can read this. 🙁 I am glad to hear about the Teverii, since I liked Stephen in the first two books.
    Hi, by the way! I found this blog by LJ-surfing, and I like your reviews.

  4. Welcome, Kaye, and sorry your comment got trapped in the spam filters (an IP lookup service thought your IP was a spam haven).
    I’d always kind of liked Stephen, too; even through Felix’s eyes it seemed that he was competent, no small thing for Melusine.

  5. I’m glad someone besides me is a Teverius fan–it was nice to see Shannon as something other than a petulant boytoy, and I was hoping it wasn’t just the middle-aged civil servant in me that thought Stephen deserved a litle more credit for what he was dealing with.
    A question, since it tugs on my brain, and I’m interested in your thoughts about it:
    Vf vg cbffvoyr gung gur crefba jub sbhaq Qhypvarn Grirevn’f obql jnf ure qnhtugre Ivpgbevn? Qvq fur cnggre nybat gb ure zbgure’f ebbz gb jngpu ure trg qerffrq sbe gur cnegl, nf yvggyr tveyf bsgra qb? Ubj qbrf FUR srry nobhg svaqvat bhg ure zbgure qvqa’g ernyyl xvyy urefrys? Ivpgbevn fgevxrf zr nf fhpu n flzcngurgvpnyyl haflzcngurgvp punenpgre (vs gung znxrf nal frafr ng nyy) nyy guebhtu gurfr obbxf–V jnf ernyyl vzcerffrq jvgu ure qrpvfvba va gur svefg bar gb pnfg nfvqr nyy Pnonyyvar grnpuvat naq trg evq bs gur cunagbzr–orpnhfr vg arrqrq qbvat.
    I also loved the return of Simon and Rinaldo.
    I didn’t get as little out of Gideon as you seem to have–but I got more of him through Mehitabel and Mildmay than from Felix–possibly because of the way each of these were interacting with him. V jbaqre jurer gurl raqrq hc ohelvat uvz–naq vs fbzrbar ohg n ynolevagu ba uvf gbzofgbar. Nyfb, juvyr Gunqqrhf znl or qrrcyl eryvrirq gung Tvqrba naq uvf xabjyrqtr bs Gunqqrhf’ cnfg vf qrnq naq tbar, whfg ubj onqyl unf Gunqqrhf’ perqvg jvgu gur erfg bs gur Pnonyyvarf (Tvnapneyb qbrf abg fgevxr zr nf orvat jvyyvat gb chg hc jvgu vqvbgf vs ur qbrfa’g unir gb) orra nssrpgrq ol nyy guvf–ur jnf ba cerggl guva vpr jvgu gur Grirevv–jr xarj sebz gur svefg obbx gung Ivpgbevn qbrfa’g zhpu yvxr uvz (lrf, V xabj Sryvk jnf fhssrevat sebz qrzragvn jura ur znqr gung bofreingvba, ohg ur jnf cerggl creprcgvir va uvf qrzragvn), naq V tbg gur vzcerffvba Fgrcura jnf ernql gb srrq uvz gb gur Xnyyvcubear gurer ol gur raq bs gur yngrfg obbx.
    Also, I really warmed up to young Septimus, and the girl who didn’t want him.

  6. fidelio: I think Shannon was particularly dis-served by the very quick start to _Melusine_, because it’s really not until now that I got any sense of why he and Felix were together for so long, besides the superficial.
    I don’t have any particular thoughts about your first spoiler-protected question, though it’s a good one and I’d like to know more about that character.
    As for your second, don’t know, but (ROT13): v guvax gur xnyyvcubear vf gbb avpr gb unir gunqqrhf srq gb ure. v qb ubcr fbzrguvat fhvgnoyr bpphef, gubhtu.

  7. V frrz gb erpnyy fur’f qhovbhf nobhg gur jvfqbz bs rngvat jvmneqf, naljnl.

  8. I just finished The Mirador (I’d been waiting to read/comment on your review until I had) and I pretty much agree with everything you said.
    I sort of feel the same way you did about Gideon, but it didn’t really bother me. I felt like I got everything I could have from Mildmay and Mehitabel’s perspectives, and I didn’t really expect more from Felix’s narration, since he seems rarely to think about other people at all, especially outside of the ways they affect him.
    And you’re right—I definitely feel less urgency to read Summerdown than I did to read The Virtu after I finished M

  9. Hello, I haven’t commented at your site before, but have enjoyed reading your reviews.
    I’ve just finished a first read-through of The Mirador–checked out from my public library(!!). Was just curious about the small matters from the beginning that you mention, and that I missed: the one thing that I did notice was (spoiler) gur ybhq pbng gung jnf n tyrrshy wbxr ng gur ortvaavat naq n fnq eryvp ng gur raq.
    What blew me away were the ways in which the climax (spoiler) obgu rpubrq naq jnf gur bccbfvgr bs gur pyvznk bs Gur Ivegh.
    I confess I love Gideon; I think maybe one reason he’s so difficult to get a handle on is that most of his life is interior, i.e. the life of the mind, and we don’t really get to see that.

  10. Poodlerat: about Gideon: I recognized the POV issue, and I don’t say that the book should have done something differently; it just had a sub-optimal result when it came to my reaction.
    smills47: welcome.
    As for the small things, yes, that, and also (ROT13) sryvk syvegvat, naq zvyqznl naq zruvgnory gnyxvat nobhg ure bgure ybiref.
    I don’t suppose you’d care to expand, about the climax? I think I can see something like what you’d mean, but I’m not sure.
    If it would be too long to ROT13, feel free to drop a link to a post elsewhere.

  11. Thanks! (the other small things).
    Re the climax and other stuff, I posted a comment at the_mirador:
    http://community.livejournal.com/the_mirador/16598.html?view=144342#t144342

  12. Thanks for the link–that was really helpful. *off to comment there*

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