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 a failed French Revolution.
1828 and the citizens of Paris still mourn in the wake of their failed revolution. Among them, in the dark alleys and crumbling cathedrals of the city, the most wretched have gathered into guilds of thieves, assassins – and worse. Together they are known as The Court of Miracles.
Eponine has lost more than most. When her father, Thénardier, sells her sister to the Guild of Flesh she makes a promise to do anything she can to get her sister back, even if that means joining the Court of Miracles, the very people keeping her sister a slave.
Eponine becomes perhaps the greatest thief the Court has ever known, finding a place among them and gaining another sister, Cosette. But she has never forgotten the promise she made, and if she’s to have any hope of saving one sister, she will have to betray the other.
This beautiful reimagining of Les Misérables tells the stories of your favourite characters and what might have happened if the French Revolution had not come to pass.
What a fantastic novel this turned out to be! I absolutely loved it. Pitched as a reimagining of Les Misérables, don’t let that put you off if, like me, you’re not all that familiar with Hugo’s original text or the various adaptations that have been made of it over the years. I’m not, and I had no issue in approaching this as a fantasy novel in its own right.
Set in Paris in the wake of a failed revolution, the novel opens in 1823. Eponine – Nina – is a child when her sister, Azelma, is sold by their father, and she vows that she will free her, not fully understanding who she has been sold to nor what it means for her future. A friend of Azelma’s rescues Nina and takes her into the relative protection of the Thieves Guild in the Court of Miracles. Nina is a fantastic character – young, bold, and with just the right amount of recklessness, her mission sees her in some awkward situations, although she’s smart enough to turn events to her advantage when she needs to. Already a competent thief at the time of joining the guild, we don’t see how those skills were acquired, but learn that she has been stealing on behalf of her father for some time. I was with her all the way, not sure how she was going to achieve her aim, nor whether she’d be able to pull it off, but confident that it would be a fascinating journey either way.
I love the concept of the Court of Miracles. Essentially a criminal underworld, it’s comprised of nine guilds, each of which has a particular speciality. There are thieves, assassins, smugglers, and also the Guild of Flesh, into which Azelma has been sold into. Those who join the guilds – known collectively as the wretched – are all equal, with race, gender, family, and history being entirely irrelevant, and each individual is loyal to their guild leader first and foremost. We don’t get to see each of the guilds in detail, although it’s clear what the focus of each one is, and I wonder if we’ll see the others in more detail in the next instalment in the trilogy. For this novel, theirs is plenty going on between the thieves, assassins, and the Guild of Flesh, whose leader is utterly corrupt and yet has secured such a position of power that almost none dare to challenge him or his ways, despite his repeated contraventions of their code. Almost. As Nina begins to stir things up, the other guilds must decide whether or not to get involved, and how far they’re willing to go.
Told over the course of several years, we see Nina grow into a young woman, becoming one of the top thieves in her guild. I was quite glad that that period was glossed over – as much as the training for such a position can be fun to read, it’s not central to this story and wouldn’t have added anything to the narrative in my opinion. Nina never loses sight of her goal, and everything she does serves her intention of rescuing her sister and releasing the Guild of Flesh from its master. She gets involved in various adventures along the way, bringing her to the attention of various individuals including the dauphin and the would-be head of a new revolution as well as more assassins than she is entirely comfortable with.
The Court of Miracles is a stunning novel with a fast pace, and I found it utterly engaging. It’s full of action and populated with a beautifully varied cast of characters, and it has a wonderful heroine for the reader to cheer on. Absolutely brilliant, and I can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy, due for release in 2021.