The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant
Published by: Harper Collins on June 4, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
My Rating: ★★
🚨 MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD 🚨
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.
❝Faith, caste, blood—these are not bonds that tie the Wretched together, for that is how the world sees us, as wretched.❞
The Court of Miracles has high-stakes heists, double-crossing and is set following the failed French Revolution. It is fast paced and atmospheric, but falls short with abrupt time jumps and occasionally leaving the reader in the dark for too long. At times, I didn’t know what was going on myself and the plots were more complicated than intricate or interesting. As a whole, I found the book to be unmemorable and would struggle to recall half of what happened if I didn’t make notes. There are also a lot of characters and guilds to keep up with, which quickly becomes overwhelming because it feels like unnecessary characters are introduced and named for no reason. However, there is an effort at inclusivity and the guilds being accepting to all — this is not a focus though and seems to be a missed opportunity.
❝Show your teeth and claws at every opportunity so they remember that you’re dangerous.❞
It is refreshing to see a book where romance is not a priority and I think Nina has a good head on her shoulders, but there are subtle romantic relationships and they aren’t developed nearly enough. Whilst Nina isn’t interested in romance, she has three romantic prospects and they seem to pursue it within seconds, despite her giving no signals to suggest she wants that. Everyone seems to love her, regardless of her unwelcoming nature. Due to that, these relationships felt shallow and forced. The sibling-like relationship between Nina and Ettie is a redeeming point. By no means is this book bad, but I find myself struggling to say anything on it because it was generally lacklustre. Although well-written with some strong quotes in parts and a good concept, I was relieved to have finished it because it has an awfully dull nature in spite of action scenes seemingly occurring every other page.
❝This city is a broken thing, and the world itself is wrong, and we cannot sit by and do nothing about it.❞
❝I’ll cut you open so you bleed slowly, and I’ll leave you to die just as you lived—all alone in your beautiful golden palace.❞
Éponine ‘Nina’ Thénardier is the main character and a thief — she’s intelligent, calculated and protective. I think my main issue with her is she’s unlikeable and we never see her truly humanised, there’s so much weight on her breaking female stereotypes and her ferocity that she falls flat. In comparison to Les Misérables’ Éponine, Nina is trying too hard and feels like a forced attempt at making a strong female character comparable to the likes of YA heroines such as Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior. I respect how protective she is of those she cares about and she has a great deal of survival instinct, but I wanted to see the other sides to her personality — we don’t see a spectrum of emotions from her and she feels like a character on the page, nothing more. For me, I like characters who feel real and developed as opposed to some symbol of what the author thinks a female character needs to be, which is how I view Nina. Considering she is such a bland, cold character — albeit, with reason — I fail to understand why so many of the men fell in love with her when she gave them absolutely nothing in return.
❝There stands Ettie, in a dress that she’s since outgrown, wildeyed, her hair a tangle of curls, a giant ax in her hands.❞
Another important character is Cosette or ‘Ettie’ as she’s known. Ettie is young and naïve, but has an unmistakable fire to her. Whilst she is probably my favourite character in The Court of Miracles, I fear her potential was grossly wasted in order to make Nina more dynamic. For most of the book, we are reminded of pretty or lovely Ettie is and how everyone seems to want her, which really minimises her character for me. The Tiger wants her for those superficial reasons, but she is so much more and that’s highlighted when she helps fight back at the end. It’s a shame she is demeaned to a thing Nina wants to protect — something that isn’t even done out of love necessarily, but guilt because Nina couldn’t help her real sister.
MY FAVOURITE MOMENT
❝”No,” he insists. “You wouldn’t shoot me because you don’t have a gun.”
“Of course I do. I stole your pistol ten minutes ago.”❞
To be honest, this was not one of my more noteworthy reads. Nothing sticks out to me as really great or really bad — it was consistently okay. However, I did enjoy some of Nina’s witty comments and how the men around her continuously underestimated her, only for her to do something to prove them wrong or catch them off guard.
❝She’s a pretty thing, like other pretty things. But I will break her for you, because I want to see you become a terrible, lawless, honorless thing. I want to see you shatter and twist. I want to see you become like me.❞
The end fight between the Tiger and Nina is rather intriguing too. I love the Tiger’s speech about how similar Nina is to him and it’s equal parts vivid and fast-paced. Throughout the book, some things move too fast, but the build up and tension in the final scenes are spot on. If anything, I wish it was extended more and didn’t come so out of the blue.
MY LEAST FAVOURITE MOMENT
I actually have mixed feelings on this moment, but when Lady Corday went into the palace and hypnotised the nobles is my least favourite moment. As a reader, I found the hypnosis aspect to be fascinating and it adds a whole other layer of sinister to the books given the specifics of the hypnosis, but it felt out of place. Hypnosis seems more in the realm of fantasy than anything — a pocket watch you can’t look away from? — and the inclusion of it pushes the boundaries so well-established by Grant. There’s no other more fantastical elements in the book, so it comes across as random and a cop out because the author couldn’t figure out another way to set the desired events in motion.
This isn’t the book for me, but I think more dedicated Les Misérables fans might find entertainment in this. Although, a part of me can’t help but feel like the Les Misérables elements are more Easter eggs and this is a loose retelling — the author uses the same names and scratches the surface with some minor Les Mis plot point nods at best. I wouldn’t recommend it, mainly because I think this book lacked direction on what it wanted to be and attempts to be a little bit of everything, leaving the arcs and characters underdeveloped. Albeit, the writing was consistent and some quotes really packed a punch, so I am open to reading more of Grant’s work in the future.
Thank you to Harper Collins UK and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
read it and weep,
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