Sarah Monette’s Corambis concludes the Doctrine of Labryinths series. This fourth book features a fairly strong plot-story disjunct. The plot is new to the series, and examines the aftermath of Corambis’s civil war, which ended when the Insurgence’s leaders attempted to invoke a magical engine which killed them all except Kay, the Margrave of Rothmarlin, who is blinded. The story is Felix learning not to be such a terrible person.
This story was very welcome, to say the least—actually it was such a relief that I didn’t re-read the other three volumes looking for overall structure and patterns, because I couldn’t bear going back to Felix in full-out asshole mode. Not only does he get better, but his progress is convincing and emotionally satisfying. Hooray!
Mildmay has much less to do in this book, alas, though I’d suspected as much when considering his arc in The Mirador, and is even absent from a fair chunk of the narrative early on. He’s there, his presence matters to the book, and I’m always glad to see him, but those who strongly prefer him to Felix should adjust their expectations accordingly. Kay, the third point-of-view character, is an interesting person and has a complete arc, but inevitably the weight of the book is tipped away from him and toward Felix, who has three whole books of history with the reader on his side of the scales. Further, Kay’s part of the story is the one most closely linked to the plot, and that is pretty thoroughly subordinated to the story of Felix’s growth.
I have only a couple of small quibbles with the book. There’s one conversation in which our non-omniscient and thus unreliable narrators discuss unreliable narration, which stuck out like a sore thumb to me: the rest of the books aren’t that self-consciously meta. (Speaking of which, it’s not a quibble, but I did note that the book assumes an odd distance from the two really showy episodes via its choice of narrator. I can see some of the effects this produces, but I did find it odd on first reading.) And while I greatly approve of the content of the Conclusion, the form threw me right out of the book—though I seem to be absolutely the only person to feel that way. Otherwise, like its predecessors, Corambis has thorough and complex characterization of its people, their relationships to each other, and the worlds they live in; terrific narrative voices; satisfying arcs of emotional growth; and cool magical bits of the numinous and non-cookbook-y kind. If you’ve been waiting until it was completed to start or continue the series, I think you can go forth and read with confidence.