Melusine and The Virtu

Reviewer: Katherine Ray

Author: Sarah Monette

Published: 2005/2006

Reviewed: 2007-05-22

Publisher: Ace Books

I stumbled across these two books while helping to process "The Virtu"
into the library. I've read them through twice and am anxiously
awaiting the third book in the series, "The Mirador," which is coming
out one chapter at a time for the last four months before publication,
so I've already read the first two chapters. Currently it looks like
it will be a four book series.

I'll start off by saying that if these books were rated by the
standards set by the Motion Picture Association of America, it would
be rated R for language and "nudity." They are a first person
narration by two characters, one of whom uses the f-word and
variations thereof fairly frequently. It wasn't a problem for me; the
language is effectively used and isn't there just for shock value.
The characters also have sex a couple of times per book, and it's
rough sex (one time it's rape) and fairly graphic. On the other hand,
"Melusine" is in the young adult section of my library, so maybe I'm
over-reacting. Then again, maybe I should go knock some sense into
whoever classified it as young adult and not sci-fi/fantasy.

"Melusine" and "The Virtu" are not the most beautifully crafted pieces
of literature ever. When I go back and re-read them with a critical
eye I sometimes wince a bit, and her fore-shadowing is pretty easy to
see through, but as soon as I get into the story I forget all that and
enjoy myself immensely. It's the characterizations, character
interactions, and plot that drive the book, not the writing style.

The two main characters are from a city called Melusine, though one of
them lives in the Mirador, which is a humongous sprawling
palace/castle/fortress in the middle of the city that houses the
nobility and the wizards. The Virtu is a very important magical stone
in the Mirador.

One character goes mad (for good reason), and he is a surprisingly
coherent narrator, even when he's insane. The other character (who,
by the way, is an excellent storyteller and starts off "Melusine" with
a story that sent shivers up my spine) decides to help him out and
drags him on an exceptionally long road trip in search of a cure for
the madness.

"The Virtu" picks up at the end of the road trip and details the trip
back and what happens when they get home. The wizard starts doing
research into the use of labyrinths in magic, fortune telling, and
oneiromancy, which here has the extended meaning beyond "using dreams
to tell the future" of building dream worlds, and using dreams for
magical purposes.

"The Mirador" starts up two years after the end of "The Virtu," and
it's not out until August 2007.