I’ve linked here a thread of bail funds to support protesters who are arrested for demanding justice for victims of police violence. Here is the Black Lives Matter Carrd to support as well. I will be doing this on every post. If you have the funds to donate, please do but if not, please support and uplift Black voices and sign the petitions.
Today, I’m really excited to share my review of the fantastic The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant. Thank you so much to HarperCollins and Jennifer Harlow for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
A diverse fantasy reimagining of Les Misérables and The Jungle Book.
In the dark days following a failed French Revolution, in the violent jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, young cat-burglar Eponine (Nina) Thenardier goes head to head with merciless royalty, and the lords of the city’s criminal underworld to save the life of her adopted sister Cosette (Ettie).
Her vow will take her from the city’s dark underbelly, through a dawning revolution, to the very heart of the glittering court of Louis XVII, where she must make an impossible choice between guild, blood, betrayal and war.
The Court of Miracles is an intensely riveting read that you will find yourself glued to until you reach the final page. It sets up what is going to be a magical trilogy and sets a strong foundation for future adventures.
Grant’s writing flows so well, creating such a compulsively readable story that I flew through over half of this fantastic book in one afternoon. It just clicked instantly and from there, you’re utterly hooked by Grant’s entrancing writing. Her skill is clearly evident when it comes to the Les Misérables element, which is used as a tool to weave familiar elements and characters into her wholly original, bold reimagining. This is no carbon copy, rather a fresh look at a tale that many of us hold dear. It’s awesome to comb through and spot all the little references which are rather like a knowing wink to the audience that is hunting for those tiny details. This speaks volumes about Grant’s skill and attention to detail. For a debut author, she blows it out of the water.
This Paris is not the one we know with Grant casting a darker revisionist lens on our version of history. Here, the seedy underbelly of the city and its various criminal guilds are exposed but the equally (if not more) corrupt and brutal court hides their treachery behind fine clothes, deceptively beautiful smiles and extravagant balls. Grant makes it very clear that most people stray to the dark in order to survive, but the rich thrive off it. There’s a stark contrast between the vain frivolity of the elite and the harsh struggle of the Wretched (those in the Court of Miracles). Grant weaves a fully fleshed-out, realised world beneath the surface of Paris that was so fascinating to visit. The different Guilds are so distinct and interesting to read about, with a lot of room left for further exploration in the sequel and this reviewer strongly hopes that we’ll return to their shadowy halls.
Grant is unafraid to really dive into the action and gritty topics. There’s a fair amount of blood and violence, showing the dirty, raw reality of survival. Addiction is also a large topic of the book, particularly opium addiction or the ‘poppy’ and the book also delves into the issue of slavery. Also, there’s a really thought-provoking conversation about privilege at the heart of the book. Nina is a working-class person of colour and this informs every aspect of her worldview. She faces prejudice and being seen as ‘lesser’ for being mixed race. In contrast, the white elite will never understand the struggles she has faced. Even the revolutionary students are blinded by their fanatical ideology, which they are only able to cultivate because of their privilege, knowledge and education.
Speaking of Nina, she is a fantastic protagonist, who is ferocious, feisty and an excellent thief to boot. Her relationships with other characters and their dynamics were really interesting to read and hopefully there’s more to discover with some of them. In fact, the vast majority of the characters were really three-dimensional and well-rounded. They all have a grey morality that Grant applies across the board to highlight the messy reality of survival. Even the primary villain has a believable and understandable backstory that goes a long way towards explaining why he is the way he is, though his horrendous actions are never excused. He is a menacing villain, but the beauty of Grant’s work is that so is Nina’s father. Their scale is vastly different but Nina’s father manages to wreck so many aspects of her life and his treachery is purely motivated by greed. To this reader, both men appeared equally deplorable. A lot of the story centres on Nina liberating herself from him, finding her own identity and forming her own family. The found family trope is a familiar and comforting one in this story, creating genuine but complex relationships.
In summary, The Court of Miracles is a brutal, sharp and brilliant story that has a moody and dark atmosphere expertly created by an unflinching author. It is a rich tale that you’ll be able to vividly picture yourself in.