{Giveaway+Review+Excerpt} THE COURT OF MIRACLES by Kester Grant

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O P E N I N G   H O O K:

   IT IS A TIME OF FAMINE, of hungering want that threatens to eat you from the inside out, leaving you good only to wait for the coming of death. And Death the Endless always comes.

(Page 14, US e-ARC edition)

“Nous sommes d'un sang.

“...We are of one blood.


Today's post has been hard for me to compile because THE COURT OF MIRACLES by Kester Grant has been one of my 2020 Most Anticipated Releases, and I did enjoy reading the book spent money to pre-order a couple of fancy collector's editions from the UK. I've been trying to get to my read of this book all year, and was very grateful to be accepted onto the Fantastic Flying Book Club Blog Tour to promote this title, especially because it gave me a reason to bump my reading up my list.

This year has been hard. Reading has been harder for me. I have started so many books, but it has been hard to pick them up again and finish them, because I get so distracted, or feel like what I am doing is so trivial. So I put off reading THE COURT OF MIRACLES until right before I was supposed to review it and started over the weekend. While I finished the book last night and would, in fact, recommend this new release, I think it is very hard to read right now and might be triggering to people in unanticipated ways.

If you know the story of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, you know that the 1832 cholera epidemic led to a massive economic crisis and that insurgency was on the rise. We always say that history repeats itself, and this is one such instance. To read a book that features a plague, that features the suppressed being beaten down by the government and the justice system, of revolutions and street protests and baricadse to swell up in protest and demand human rights....these are all things happening right now, today, this minute. If I wasn't on tour today, I wouldn't have been able to finish reading this book right now because it was jarring and overlapping with reality in a non-intended way, pulling me from that timeframe and into my own, rather than into the story. But at the same time, the fact that many of the statements about social justice and the rights that elude so many resonate in today's world is a testament to the unalienable rights of all people and the way humans have been oppressed over time, and the struggle to rise up and be supported. The book's message is still so important, even applied in this alternate setting, but it is very hard to read in this exact minute, and should perhaps be saved for a later date.

Those of you who have followed me for a long time, be it here or on social media, know that one of my favorite genres to read is when a fairy tale, myth, or classic novel is retold. Many of you also know that one of my obsessions is Broadway. Growing up, before I was ever into musicals, I knew Les Misérables. I may not have appreciated it until I was older, but it a fundamental stepping stone in my musical theatre history, and is, in fact, one of my favorite musicals. For all that, however, I have never read Victor Hugo's novel, though I own it and have begun reading it several times. So I can't speak to how true it is to the book. And I've never read The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (or even seen the Disney movie, actually. We weren't allowed to watch it as children, and I haven't yet as an adult, though I'm sure it's on Disney+ and I can rectify this soon!) I can't speak to how like or dislike THE COURT OF MIRACLES is from either novel it took inspiration from. I can only go by the musical that I know so well. I loved seeing a lot of familiar characters leap to the page in new ways, from our main character, Éponine "Nina" Thénardier to Cosette ("Ettie") to tender moments with the tragic Gavroche, and even to appearances from Jean Valjean and a gender-swapped Inspector Javert. Yet the book is also a twist on the tale, more of an inspiration than a straight-on retelling, full of original world-building that keeps you reading, whether you're a fan of the original and it feels like familiar characters in a new world, or whether this is the first time you've ever experienced the horrors of 1832 France and the lives of the Wretched.

Éponine has always been my favorite character (Perhaps, in part, because I was a fan of the song "On My Own" thanks to my extreme love of the show Dawson's Creek growing up and its star-crossed implications, again long before I would become a fan of the show or musical theatre). I have often thought of writing a retelling and centering it around Éponine. She deserved so much better than what she got. I know a lot of Les Mis fans feel this way. When I heard that there was going to be a new novel and Éponine would be the central character and finally get the "better" she deserved, I was hooked and needed this book. IMMEDIATELY.

Éponine, or Nina, since she goes by her nickname in the novel, has been through so much in her short lifespan. When her father sells her sister Azelma to the Tiger, Azelma risks everything to get Nina away to the Court of Miracles, where she is accepted into the Guild of Thieves as their Black Cat. Now protected from being sold herself, Nina becomes one of the top thieves in her Guild, but also is obsessed with freeing Azelma. She comes up with a plan to throw a new hire, the beautiful Cosette, into the Tiger's path so that he covets her, then offer to trade her for Azelma. Only, she realizes that she'd be condeming sweet, innocent Ettie to the same lifestyle and can't go through with it. But the damage is done, and the Tiger will stop at nothing to own Ettie, setting off a chain of events that shape and evolve Nina over the years, fueling the person she will become as she grows up and sets plans of revenge into motion that will change the landscape of not just France, but The Court of Miracles itself...

I really enjoyed the focus being on Éponine, and was surprised but pleased when she formed such a fierce bond with Ettie. Being a huge Éponine fan, I was never a huge fan of Cosette, who led to Éponine's fall, and didn't think I'd like her here, either, but the author developed her fully and gave her a personality and backbone of her own. As much as I love Éponine, I was surprised to see her with not one, not two, but three potential love interests, which will create all sorts of love triangles and romantic complications as the trilogy continues. (At one point, her heart lurches / pulses races / etc for two different paramours within pages of one another.) I'm not a huge fan of love triangles, and usually prefer them when they tilt moreso in one direction than the other. I hope that in the middle book, we'll start to see a tilt and that Éponine will discover more about herself and what she wants in life.

I also was a fan of the way the struggle between Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert played out in the novel. It is the central component of the musical, and a side story here, but one that I think will become more important as the series continues. I don't want to spoil the surprise of it here, but it was interesting to see Javert cast as a woman and to see that Nina is the one who breaks Jean Valjean out of jail by chance, creating a bone debt that she will later come to heavily rely on.  It was interesting to see the different Guilds that made up The Court of Miracles and how they interacted with one another; their internal political intrigue fueled much of the novel. I also enjoyed the French scattered throughout the novel, and the way it wasn't always translated for readers. It added an air of authenticity. Plus, if you have ever learned another language, you know that sometimes, the same sentiments don't exist the same way in both languages, and that one is better for a phrase than another, such as one of the core phrases used repeatedly throughout the novel, "Nous sommes  d'un sang," which means "We are of one blood," but runs so much deeper and means so much more as you read than its English counterpart could ever hope to reveal in so few words.

Ultimately, I enjoyed THE COURT OF MIRACLES and would absolutely recommend it to readers, especially fans of Les Misérables -- or, heck, people who hated Les Mis, in part because, again, Éponine deserved so much more. At the same time, I don't know that this is the right time to read the book because it may pour salt onto open wounds and makes them hurt even more.

"Only the mad would see the endless darkness, the great evil that reigns around us, and stand against it."(Page 45)

"I wear this city like skin wrapped around my bones." (Page 56)

"How far can the Law be bent before it breaks upon our backs, destroying us all?" (Page 100)

"Justice is a fire that rages through your bones. The Law hangs upon your heart like a burden." (Page 102)

"The sun is rising ahead of me. The first light is breaking. We the Wretched are creatures of the night. And this night is ending." (Page 106)

"Gold has no value to the dying. It can't stop the hands of death. What the dying want is to live. And to live they need to eat." (Page 123)

"We are not so different, you and I . We are both fighting monsters a hundred times more powerful than ourselves. We are both tiny and insignificant, and we both know that the odds say we cannot win." (Page 128)

"I erase and rewrite myself with a new face and form. I'm no woman, no girl. I've no blood father or home, I've none of the cards this life dealt me at birth. I chose who I am. I'm the Black Cat. A daughter of this city. A child of Tomasis, Lord of the Thieves Guild. No one can take anything from me because the Tiger has already taken it all. And I'm going to get it back." (Page 195)

"Blind are the distracted." (Page 211)"The City has a long memory. The people don't forget. The last time the children of the City rose, when their numbers were great and their hearts burned for change, there was no mercy for them. Neither woman nor child was spared. The streets ran red with blood." (Page 250)

"I will break her for you, because I want to see you become a terrible, lawless, honorless thing. I want to see you shatter and twist. I want to see you become like me." (Page 275)



Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: G ( Kissing )
Language: PG ( French curses such as "chienne" and "Ysengrim be damned!" and "Go to Ysengrim." and "Rennart's balls." )
Violence: PG13 ( A scene with corpses in the morgue swollen from plague;  Fleshers from the Guild of Flesh who are brutes; A scene where a character is whipped and given multiple lashes; characters are shot through the heart and other bodily areas. A couple of characters are tortured; a scene full of slaughtered bodies. )
Other:  PG13 ( The Guild of Flesh revolves around prostitution and the main character's sister is sold to become a prostitute. One of the Guilds maims its members to help their cause. . )
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

This book is gorgeous. I can't wait to see it in person!

I love both the US and UK editions of the book.

RIGHT: UK Edition
LEFT: US Edition

But I especially love the UK exclusive editions that are being released from Waterstones, Goldsboro, and the June Illumicrate Book Box. At the moment, I BELIEVE you can still get the exclusive Waterstones edition with the exclusive embossing beneath the jacket, but if you can't, you can, at least, still have it with stained pages. You can get the gorgeous Goldsboro edition that comes with a slipcase exclusively if you purchase their three month Book of the Month subscription as its June title. Illumicrate probably won't have many -- if any -- extras once their June subscriptions renew and their waiting list is fulfilled, but keep an eye on their social media just in case.

Goldsboro Edition

Waterstones Edition

At the moment, I believe the three UK exclusive editions are the only one with embossed designs, but I have yet to see a US edition because bookstores around here have yet to re-open...

I really do love both covers, but all the super gorgeous secret stuff really sways me on this one!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Kester Grant
Release Date: June 2, 2020
Publisher: Knopf Children's // Random House
Received: For Review 

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.

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.



Kester Grant is a British-Mauritian writer of color. She was born in London, grew up between the UK, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the tropical island paradise of Mauritius. As a wanton nomad she and her husband are unsure which country they currently reside in but they can generally be found surrounded by their fiendish pack of cats and dogs.  





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