A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{April 26, 2010}   Corambis by Sarah Monette

Plot: Felix Harrowgate has been exiled to be tried by the sorcerers in Corambis, a city so far away he and his brother Mildmay can’t even find a map to lead them there. But things aren’t any more peaceful in this faraway land than they had been at home. A dethroned prince set off a mechanical beast to reclaim his throne and died in the process. Of the entire expedition, only his close friend and adviser, Kay Brightmore survived, though blinded. Unknowingly, they have awoken an ancient power that once destroyed a civilization and may do so again. Felix and Mildmay must help Kay stop the destruction that he set into motion.

We’re told not to judge a book by its cover but we do all the time. We can’t help it. The cover is our first impression of a book, it gives us a sense of genre and tone. The Doctrine of Labyrinths (of which Corambis is the 4th book) is an example of a brilliant fantasy series spoiled by inappropriate covers. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t bad covers but they give entirely the wrong impression. These are complex, psychological and political fantasies presented as romances. Romance readers will be mostly disappointed and the intended audience may never pick the books up. I almost didn’t and I would have regretted it. Volume 2, The Virtu, is already out of print so if you get an opportunity to read this series, take it.

Monette writes amazing characters. Corambis is told from the point of view of Felix, Mildmay and Kay and each narration is distinct. You can tell who is speaking without even being told (though you are told) because each character’s voice and personality is so well developed and defined. These are almost real people to me. And like real people they are complex and conflicted, they have motivations for what they do and they make mistakes. And you don’t always like them but you love to read about them. Meanwhile the story is complex and interesting; I couldn’t put the book down until the ending which was both satisfying and appropriate.

I can’t wait for Monette’s next novel, The Goblin Emperor, which will be published under the name Katherine Addison.


H.L.Fatnassi says:

Eesh, I hadn’t seen that cover (as I only have the first of the Monette books.) They did her a serious dis-service with art like that. It looks like some weird green slime sexual kink with Fabio or something. :-/ I really need to hunt the rest of those books down (second-hand I suppose.)

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