The Court of Miracles – Kester Grant

Two devoted sisters grew together in the shadows of the terrible years of Paris, forty years after the failed attempt at revolution which saw those who rose against the ruling class rounded up and put to the guillotine; Azelma was sold to Kaplan, the Tiger, Lord of the Guild of Flesh, while the younger, Nina, escaped their cruel father Thenardier to be inducted into the Guild of Thieves, the Black Cat who silently prowls the night.

She steals to the order of her own Guild Lord, Tomasis, but in defiance of his instruction she continues to hunt for Azelma, a quest which will take her to the Palais des Tuileries and the bedroom of the Dauphin of France and through the Houses of the Guilds who comprise the Court of Miracles, the Assassins, the Mercenaries, the Ghosts, incurring debts and engendering both respect and resentment.

The debut novel of Kester Grant, The Court of Miracles is a fantasy of the two worlds of Paris from 1823 to 1832, of palaces and gutters, and courts and cutthroats, of those who value bread above gold and those who have never known what it is to be denied any material but lack a true and valued friend, Nina slipping between the worlds in a variety of disguises and always followed by trouble.

Taking Les Misérables as the springboard, many of Nina’s associates and adversaries are familiar, the emaciated Gavroche of the Ghosts, Le Maire of the Guild of Letters, better known as escaped convict Jean Valjean, endlessly sought by Javert, fierce red-headed lady inspector of the Sûreté, and Nina’s adopted sister Cosette, a prize sought by all who have laid eyes on her innocent beauty.

Best friend of the drunkard Grantaire, St Juste of the Société des droits de l’hommes knows that it is madness to stand against the overwhelming forces which confront them, but he carries revolutionary blood and his cause intersects with Nina’s, but it is only after two hundred pages that the scene-setting gives way to momentum and Grant allows The Court of Miracles to take flight rather than follow an established path, and it is greatly improved when defining its own destiny.

The opening chapters a whirlwind tour of the two sides of Parisian life, there is velocity but little progress, running forward and getting nowhere as each Guild is introduced, variations on a theme with insufficient individuality to anchor their underground hovels or scheming lords in the mind, Grant too pleased with her setting to step back and push the story which beneath the veneer of glitter and dust is inevitably another “rise against the oppressor” young adult novel which, despite the endemic famine and murder, lacks the depth to make it more than a fairytale.

The Court of Miracles is available now from Harper Voyager



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