Author: Kester Grant | Publisher: Harper Voyager (2020)
I was really unsure when I picked this up whether or not it was going to be “my thing”. Honestly, the synopsis just doesn’t do it justice! I was totally gripped from start to finish. The Court of Miracles is definitely one of my top reads this year.
The book is set is an alternate reality where the French Revolution failed, which led to the revolutionaries and the poor being mercilessly hunted and forced underground. They formed a secret criminal society to survive. The world the characters inhabit is grotesque, brutal, and gritty. It’s a sort of magical realism, but not quite your typical fantasy.
The worldbuilding is phenomenal. There is actually very little description of places or things, and yet it has a really strong sense of place. It’s dark. Unpleasant. Frightening. And there is a sense of history and reality, which grounds the book and stops it becoming too fantastical. The little touches, like using real places, give the book an air of authenticity. Despite being quite an unpleasant world, one you definitely wouldn’t want to visit, there is a swashbuckling quality to it which lends the whole book a sense of whimsy and playfulness.
The light touch on descriptive language means the plot moves at a fast lick. And it has more twists than a mountain road. I was hooked right to the very end.
The plot itself is dark. Really, really dark. It can be a little heartrending. It doesn’t shy away from the kind of themes you’d be more likely to find explored at this level in straight modern fiction: loss, rape, drugs, sex trafficking, and child abuse. And, although there is ultimately hope and redemption, the characters never get an easy ride.
All of which makes it sound like a depressing or heavy read – which it really wasn’t. The Court of Miracles is ultimately an adventure and a fantasy. The fine line between completely bumming out the reader with serious subject matter, getting across a point, exploring important themes and questions vs entertaining is walked masterfully. Despite some of the more serious and grotesque aspects of the worldbuilding, of the plot, the book is fun – even humorous. The first person narrative is clever, immersive, and skillful.
The characters… oh my gosh, can we talk about Eponine? I love a strong female protagonist and she is all of that and more. She’s sassy af. Strong. Brave. Talented. Flawed. Real. Ruthless and yet human. I want to be her. I want to be her friend.
Tiger is the most repugnant and terrifying character. Like Jabba the Hutt, but more unpleasant. A book really isn’t satisfying for me without a good counter to the heroine. And what makes Tiger so horrifying is that we understand him, we see him on the news and we really fear what he represents. We almost relate to him. There’s no magic here, just straight up human evil. And, in a way, that’s more frightening.
If you liked Christina Henry’s Alice, I think you’ll definitely like The Court of Miracles. I’d say it’s also one for fans of Saba Tahir and Leigh Bardugo.
The Court of Miracles is ultimately an exploration of evil and humanity. It’s the story of what a person can achieve with grit and inner strength. It’s about hope and love and loyalty.
This was one of those books that I never wanted to end and found impossible to put down. Highly recommend it!