Goodreads: The Court of Miracles
Series: Court of Miracles #1
In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie).
When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.
Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.
Calling A Court of Miracles a retelling of Les Misérables is a bit of a stretch. Yes, there is a character called Eponine who has an adopted sister named Cosette, and a few other characters appear whom readers will recognize from Victor Hugo’s work. Readers should, however, throw out all expectations. This is a YA novel set in an alternative history where Eponine is one of the prized cat burglars in the infamous Guild of Thieves, and her main goal is to break every law of her Guild in order to save Cosette from being sold as a prostitute. Comparisons to Six of Crows likewise are pretty superficial, and only make sense insofar as that both books are set in a criminal underworld. Really, this is a YA novel with a kickass heroine willing to go to extreme lengths to save her sister–and while it contains elements of other stories, it ultimately is its own.
I tend to enjoy books with complex plots involving plenty of politics and intrigue, and this delivered. While its supposed historical setting is all but irrelevant, the dynamics between the various Guilds were enough to keep me engaged. Eponine is committed to breaking the Tiger’s rule over the Guild of Flesh–as well as over the other Guilds–but, to do so, she needs to convince the other Guild leaders that it is worth their while to rebel. Her efforts at time lead to too easy results. But the book is entertaining, if nothing else.
And that critique of everything being too easy is the main one I have for the book. This not only makes the story feel unrealistic, but also lessens some of the drama. For example, while the crew of Six of Crows spends an entire book leading up to their final, grand heist, Eponine manages a spectacular prison breakout in the span of only a few pages. And that is after walking up to the prison with no trained allies and no plan. A bunch of kids simply lead her to the prison and ask her to break someone out of the supposedly impenetrable fortress, and she does, within the space of ten minutes. An episode like that either makes it seem like the prison was not that impressive after all or that the others who tried and failed were just terrible at their jobs. It does not really make Eponine a star thief because there is no struggle–and the struggle is what lets readers know that she is the best.
Other episodes also undermine Eponine’s credibility as a thief. For example, she is lauded as having stolen from the crown prince himself. But the crown prince happens to have a crush on her, and he just lets her steal from him repeatedly. This does not make Eponine a legendary thief. It makes the crown prince a fool. In other episodes, Eponine casually refers to the Guilds and their practices, even though the Guilds are supposedly a huge secret that the law and the aristocracy have no idea exist. (Even though they gather in broad daylight in matching clothes? I don’t know. Try not to question it too much, I guess.) One would think that the Guild’s best cat burglar would guard her tongue more closely.
There are other sundry flaws in the book: too many love interests (three), some weird changes made to Les Misérables (Javert is pursuing Jean Valjean because….she is a scorned lover? Maybe?), a lack of historical detail that makes the story feel a bit ungrounded and the student rebellion feel like it is not that important, after all (one would think it would be–at least to the students). Overall, however, if a reader is more committed to enjoying action and drama than in enjoying a fully-realized world, or if they do not particularly care about how faithful the story is to Les Misérables these flaws might be overlooked. It all depends on what one wants out of a story.
I enjoyed the action and the intrigue of A Court of Miracles. While it is not a perfectly executed story, it does provide entertainment. And, while I was reading it, that was largely what I wanted. Further, I am not overly attached to the storyline of Les Misérables, so I was able to take the many changes in stride. Readers looking for a YA book that provides plenty of action, drama, and intrigue will likely find this book a winner.