Talking 'bout a Revolution
Don't you know
They're talkin' 'bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
- Tracy Chapman
As the world erupts outside, I've got two reviews to bring you of books set in and around the French Revolution.
Well, kinda. Court of Miracles by Kester Grant is set in an alternate history, where the revolution failed, the aristocrats are still in power, and the streets of Paris are controlled by an assortment of powerful courts, criminal guilds.
Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn is set in the years after the revolution, the Terror, when revolutionaries turned on each other and remaining nobles hid and schemed from the shadows.
Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn
Camille, a revolutionary's daughter, leads a band of outcasts – a runaway girl, a deserter, an aristocrat in hiding. As the Battalion des Morts they cheat death, saving those about to meet a bloody end at the blade of Madame La Guillotine. But their latest rescue is not what she seems. The girl's no aristocrat, but her dark and disturbing powers means both the Royalists and the Revolutionaries want her. But who and what is she? In a fast and furious story full of the glamour and excesses, intrigue and deception of these dangerous days, no one can be trusted, everyone is to be feared. As Camille learns the truth, she's forced to choose between loyalty to those she loves and the future.
I really enjoyed Dangerous Remedy. A historical thriller, it takes us back to a fascinating time in history. The French Revolution has removed the monarchy and aristocracy, but it's a dark and dangerous time, the Terror. Revolutionaries are turning on each other, executing anyone within their own ranks who wavers or holds different views to the ruling powers, and the royalists are still actively working to overturn it all. This churning pool of politics and executions is where our group of heroes find themselves.
I loved the different perspectives presented by the group. There's a real mix of sexualities, genders, but also backgrounds, with a deserting soldier from Marseille, an aristocrat with a drinking problem, and Ada and Cam, two girls in love, with complex family and social backgrounds. The romantic scenes were really well done, with their ups and downs feeling important and meaningful, and the action was tense, exciting and nerve wracking. The politics was particularly well done, with the theme of revolutions eventually turning on the most principled revolutionaries, and the feeling of being caught between two opposing sides, neither of whom you feel are in the right. I liked the recurring theme of choice too, and how this was reflected in the actions of the characters. A tense, exciting political historical thriller, with a diverse, queer cast of characters portrayed really well.
The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant
Liberty 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.
Family 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. Treachery 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.
The Court of Miracles is fantastic. A beautifully twisty plot and a fascinating setting, with a beautiful young innocent tossed into a dark world of powerful criminal guilds and opulent, vicious royalty, and a clever, brilliant thief determined to save her at any cost. Now, I really don't know much about Les Miserables. I know enough of it to be aware of some definite crossovers/influences, but I'm sure there was a lot I missed. As far as I can tell, The Court of Miracles is happening alongside Les Mes in some kind of alternative reality France, with the two separate stories crossing over and occasionally colliding. In that alternative France, the Revolution failed, and it's fascinating to see this alternate history where the monarchy still holds power and the leaders of the revolution were the ones to face the guillotine. I loved the setting, with the courts, and how these were slowly introduced over the course of the novel. I had to keep track of how many I'd actually seen and what the different ones were, but this felt like a very organic way of revealing them. Also, I absolutely love the fact that among the smugglers, thieves, assassins and whores, there was a court of accountants and auditors, and that they were the truly scary ones! They were reminiscent at times of the Guilds in Ankh-Morpork, though with a much more sinister and scary edge. I loved the uncertainty of it all, who was an ally, who couldn't be trusted, and who was just out to serve themselves. Nina was a very cool main character, who was always very impressive. I loved exploring the city through her eyes, and some of the dilemmas she faced were really quite emotional. Her relationship with Ettie really drove the narrative and I found myself enthralled. I'm really looking forward to returning to the Court of Miracles for further daring adventures.🌕🌕🌕🌕🌕Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn is published by Zephyr on 6th August 2020.The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant is published by HarperVoyager on 18 June 2020.I was given eProofs of both books in return for an honest review, via NetGalley.