The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publishing Info: eARC from Harper Voyager
Star Rating: 3/5
Back Cover Summary:
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 the 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.
Thank you so much to Harper Voyager and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This book was one of my most anticipated releases of the year so I was super excited to get my hands on an advanced copy. It’s been billed as a retelling of Les Misérables and The Jungle Book meets Six of Crows, which are certainly very attention-grabbing comparisons. This is a dark reimagining of 1800s France and that darkness and grittiness comes through really well. Unfortunately, this book wasn’t as good as I’d been hoping. I enjoyed reading it. I was engaged and absorbed throughout thanks to the great writing, but I didn’t connect with it.
This book didn’t meet my expectations for a retelling. In some ways the Jungle Book retelling element works better than the Les Mis element does. The villain of the book is known as the Tiger and (thanks to the actions of our protagonist) is after Ettie, which seems to be representing the tiger from The Jungle Book, Shere Khan, being after Mowgli. It includes most of the characters from Les Misérables and there is the element of the revolution and the barricades, but it doesn’t retell the book in any meaningful way. To be honest, I felt that this book might actually have been stronger if it had not been written as a retelling of Les Misérables. It just didn’t really feel like a retelling. For many of the characters, there’s too much reliance on readers’ knowledge of the original characters, rather than doing something different with them or developing them as individuals separate from the original work.
The book is set into separate sections with some quite big time jumps in between that make for a disjointed reading experience. The one that caused the most problems for me comes early on in the book. We rejoin Nina about to enact her plan to get her older sister, Azelma, back from the Tiger, but at the cost of her younger adoptive sister Ettie. After setting this in motion, Nina very quickly changes her mind and ends up needing to protect Ettie (who she put in danger in the first place) and then the rest of the book revolves around keeping Ettie safe from the Tiger. But we don’t know anything about Ettie or her relationship with Nina due to the time jump, so this shift comes a bit out of the blue. We don’t have any understanding of their relationship or why Nina would move heaven and earth to protect a character we only just met.
At the start, Nina is driven by her goal of helping Azelma. But then when her goal shifts to protecting Ettie it’s like she’s completely forgotten about setting Azelma free. Because of the time skip, this sudden shift in the protagonist’s goal is jarring. We’ve only just met Ettie and there isn’t anything at first to show that Nina cares about Ettie as a sister. Their relationship develops well and I enjoyed seeing the two characters interact later on. But at first, there’s nothing to show why Nina would suddenly change her mind and give up on her plan to save Azelma and instead focus on protecting Ettie, a character we know nothing about and don’t yet care for. One moment, Nina is willing to sacrifice Ettie to save Azelma, which she has been carefully planning, and the moment she puts that plan in motion she makes this sudden u-turn.
What stopped me from connecting to this book was the characters. I liked Nina as a protagonist but she doesn’t experience much growth. Also, she’s amazing at thieving and breaking into places, but she feels a bit like a Mary Sue. At the beginning of the book she breaks into the palace and steals a necklace from round the neck of the Dauphine under the instructions of another character. But the details of how she manages to achieve this astonishing feat are pretty light.
I only got a vague impression of most of the characters and felt very distant from them. I didn’t feel I got to know any of them. The best way I can think to describe it is that we get the sketch of the characters, without them having been coloured in. Montparnasse is a shadowy figure, which makes sense since he’s an assassin, but we know no more about him at the end of the book than at the beginning even though he’s a really key character. The same goes with St Juste. He’s a passionate revolutionary but that’s all we know about him. So all of the characters felt very one-dimensional.
I also have to mention the fact that Nina has three potential love interests, which is just too many, especially since we hardly get to know them. The romance element is very much a minor part of this book, but there are three characters clearly alluded to as love interests. We hardly see Nina interact with them or get to know them, so there weren’t really any connections between these potential couples.
The Tiger, however, was a well written character. He’s a powerful figure in the Court of Miracles and the other Guild Lords are afraid of him. He also has a back story that shows why and how he’s become the ‘villain’ of the story.
It’s possible that this book is just trying to do too many things at once, with elements from both Les Les Misérables and The Jungle Book in there plus the world of the Court of Miracles which I would have loved to have seen more of. If the author had more room to develop all of these elements the novel would have been stronger. A lot is crammed in, meaning things are skimmed over in a way that makes it hard to connect with the story. There are strong stakes and motivations for the protagonist, but the characters and their relationships aren’t explored enough to make me care about their story.
The writing is very absorbing. It has lovely flow and there are some great descriptions. I read this book really quickly and I think that’s because the writing is just so enjoyable to read. But as much as I wanted to love this book, I just didn’t connect with it because I felt too distant from the characters. I won’t be continuing this series, but I loved Kester Grant’s writing style, so I’ll definitely consider picking up other books of hers in the future.
This was such a long review but I had a lot of feelings about this book! Have you read The Court of Miracles? What did you think? I’d be interested to know if other people had the same feelings. I’m sure many people will absolutely love this book. Perhaps it just wasn’t for me.