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.