Published by Ace Hardcover on August 7th 2007
The dashing wizard Felix Harrowgate has reclaimed his sanity, magic, and position in society. But even as he returns to his former place in the Mirador-the citadel of power and wizardry-there are many who desire his end. Mildmay the Fox is an ex-assassin, a cat-burglar, and Felix's half-brother. Tied to Felix by blood and magic, Mildmay goes where Felix goes-even into the Mirador. There, Mildmay finds himself drawn to an alluring spy of the Bastion, a rival school of wizards.
The Bastion desires above all else to bring down the Mirador, and Felix is the key to its destruction. But Mildmay cannot let Felix stand alone, and will fight to save both his brother and his city from certain ruin
The Mirador is the third book in Sarah Monette’s the Doctrine of Labyrinths series.
A big theme in this book is repetition and the circularity of history. There’s a set of people and sequences of events that have a habit of slotting together in The Doctrine of Labyrinths universe. The broad plot of the novel is concerned with these patterns whilst at a micro level the sub-plots are made up of dozens of threads of political game play.
The multitude of agendas at play thoroughly disperses the sources of conflict across the spectrum of characters. If there is any grand puppeteer at work one could only call it ‘fate’ because despite the self-serving motivations many characters are driven by there is still a noticeable pattern that unites the city’s past, present and future. The entire cast is, for the most part unconsciously, dancing to the same song that has been commanding Mélusine’s inhabitants for years, which reminds me of when Felix could hear the Virtu’s broken melody. The inclusion of Mehitabel (an actress we met inThe Virtu who has now become one of the series’s first person narrators) and the acting company she works with compliments the themes and feel of this novel very well. The characters, in a difficult to explain way, are pointedly actors in a pre-written plot, both in terms of the way things operate within their world and in the way that they really are fictional characters. I always find books where characters think about their place in the story beautifully crafted.
The plot in The Mirador feels much more intricate and complicated than it was in the previous installments in the Doctrine of Labyrinths series. Gone are the wide spaces Mildmay and Felix traversed in Mélusine and The Virtu. Now we have the cluttered and grimy Lower City and the labyrinthine and claustrophobic Mirador, made even more closed in by the pull of the obligation d’âme that keeps Mildmay in the city. It’s an environment Monette has used before but never has she so strictly and rigidly confined us here to the extent she does in this novel. I actually enjoyed the change in atmosphere and I think it helped put a tight focus on the characters, the world Monette has fashioned and the intricacies of the plot.
Mildmay and Felix are both hurting a lot. The memory of Malkar still haunts them both. Felix is dogged by guilt. Mildmay is trapped by memories, some that he can’t forget and some that he cannot remember. The brothers really struggle to open up to each other about their individual problems, and when they do they tend to cause each other more pain than solace. There aren’t really any long journeys or external objects to fix as such that they can distract themselves with.The most important thing left to ‘fix’/heal is themselves. and in this regard Mildmay is by far the most proactive. He embarks on a personal journey to solve outstanding mysteries from his past, mysteries that are also tied to the past and future of the city itself. Over the course of this novel Mildmay learns how to have the strength to not just be a passive passenger in a predetermined story. He learns to not just be the knife that is ordered around but iunstead an active protagonist who can rewrite the story. I love Mildmay.
Felix has very little part in Mildmay’s journey. He’s far too immersed in his own pain and scared to touch Mildmay’s. In this book Felix is not ready to be healed or to interact with his past the way Mildmay is now brave enough to do. Both men are developing, but at a different pace and in different ways. There was a really great description of Felix and Mildmay’s relationship from Mehitabel which really sums the two men up:
‘The obligation d’âme meant that his [Mildmay’s] only allegiance was to Felix, making them a separate kingdom of two, with Felix as king and Mildmay as ministers, army, and populace all combined in one. A stormy little kingdom, I thought, with periodic flare-ups of civil war and a magnificently unstable government. ‘
To finish I want to say something about the Mirador’s other inhabitants, who often shine as brightly as Felix and Milly in my imagination. It was very interesting to see the everyday mechanics of court at work and to get to know Stephen and Shannon better, as well as Gideon and Simon. Shannon has matured since Mélusine and it was great to see him through Mehitabel’s eyes rather than Felix’s so we could get a fuller look at his character beyond their relationship. I grew fond of Shannon. I also grew fond of Shannon’s brother Stephen, our trusty and serious Lord Protector, who gets to be much more than the stone-faced bear failing at elegance people have dismissed him as before. My favourite quote from the whole book comes from a conversation between Stephen and Mehitabel about Felix:
“Good. I won’t have to worry about him brooding on the battlements, then.”
“Brooding on the battlements?”
“His favourite pastime. I prefer it to pitching tantrums in the Hall of the Chimeras-which he has also done a time or two.”
I loved watching characters Monette had only scratched the surface with in previous volumes flower in this installment, especially since this is the last time we meet many of them. The end of this novel is the end of a lot of things in Felix and Milly-Fox’s life. The Virtu
is still my favourite book in the series so far but The Mirador is nevertheless a beautiful book in its own way and one that touches me more and more on reflection.
The Mirador is the penultimate book in the Doctrine of Labyrinths series. I’m quite emotional at the idea of it all coming to an end, but I will save discussing that for my final Doctrine of Labyrinths review.
Thanks for reading,