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Series: Court of Miracles #1
Published by Knopf Children's on June 2, 2020
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Fairytale Retelling, Young Adult
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.
In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina's life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father's fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger--the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh--Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city's dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice--protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.
Perhaps I should have saved the initial summary that drew me to this book and billed it as a Les Miserables retelling with inspiration from Six of Crows and The Jungle Book. I was thrilled when I received the ARC ahead of the June release, this book ticked so many boxes of what I was looking for in a new and exciting YA series. My background is in history, and every class covering the history of a different European country always started with the French Revolution and its widespread implications. To say I was excited to read this book doesn’t quite capture a picture of my enthusiasm. It’s not that I was disappointed, but I did have high expectations for something a little more spectacular.
Éponine “Nina” Thénardier witnesses her abusive and greedy father sell her elder sister, Azelma, to the Tiger. Azelma’s last act was to save Nina from the same fate and arranges for her to be rescued from their father by joining the Court of Miracles. Nina becomes the “Black Cat” of the Thieves Guild, known for her stealth and ability to get in anywhere. While she carries out her duties for the Thieves Guild, she begins plans to save her sister Azelma from the Tiger. But when Thénardier adopts Cosette “Ettie”, and she attracts the Tiger’s eye, Nina must concoct a plan to keep both sisters safe.
In its heart, a Court of Miracles, is about sisterly love and what one would do to save those they love in a violent world where no one is out to save them. At no point was this book boring, the action moved swiftly as the stakes rose throughout the story for Nina and Ettie. Each new threat was met with a clever deceit to outwit their potential captors. This central message was perhaps what I enjoyed the most about Court of Miracles, but you might be wondering why it did not receive a higher rating from me.
While this book includes many other beloved Les Miserables characters (Valjean, Javert, Gavroche, etc.), and a few subplots (June Rebellion, barricade battle, etc.), it is not a retelling of Les Miserables. Which to be honest was disappointing. There was no balance between the historical events and themes of revolution and justice with the story of Nina and her quest to rescue her sisters from the Tiger. I think if this first installment of the series focused more on the world of the Guild’s and side characters (Orso, Femi, Tomasis, Lady Corday, etc.), it could have been a little more of a cohesive story.
If you are looking for a fast-paced read; then yes this is the book for you. At no point did I not want to finish this book. Kester Grant does a great job of setting the scene, from royal palaces to sewers to the homes of the Guild. I felt like I was right beside Nina the entire time. I also enjoyed Nina, and her relationship with Ettie. The only thing I did not enjoy was the romance angle, as light as it was. Nina has three love interests! And there was no chemistry with any of them! The romance can take a back seat in the rest of the series, I don’t care for Grant to explore those relationships. Or at least just not the Dauphin, did not care for his character at all.
The story spans several years and these time jumps are not well established. My ARC did not have the year at top of the chapter, which according to other reviews has been fixed in the final print copy. Having the years would have solved a lot of confusion for me. In the beginning, Nina is clearly a child (which also makes it a little unbelievable that off the bat with no training she could steal from the royal palace to get into the Thieves Guild) but then (almost suddenly) transforms in to a young adult (romance). Without the distinction of years, I had to make these assumptions on my own and ended up re-reading passages to make sure I understood that years had gone by.
Overall, a solid debut. Interested in following the series, but this story also worked as a standalone. I gave this three stars because of the time jumps, the romance, and the minor historical inaccuracies (Faberge eggs were Russian!!!) that took me out of the action. I really enjoyed the main character, but she also had some unbelievable skills that just seemed to appear out of thin air. The relationships between Nina and her sisters was what really upheld this book at three stars. Curious to see how the sequel will play out as the main conflict was solved at the end. Will definitely be adding to my to-read list for when the summary is released.
Meant to post this before the release on June 2nd but what is life now a days! If this is on your to-read list, I highly recommend purchasing for your local bookstore (to show support for small businesses).