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.
If I was to pick out a book on my shelves that is specifically because Bookstagram made me do it, it would be The Court of Miracles. During the main launch for this book, it was everywhere, and coupled with the beautiful Waterstones edition, I was powerless to resist. It was the combination of all of those things, that made me hesitant to pick it up and read it. So often the ‘hyped’ books are the ones I don’t enjoy, but this time at least, I was wrong to hesitate, because I really enjoyed it!
The book moves quickly, with elements that you soon recognise from Les Misérables. As a fairly big fan of the stage production, I was a little sceptical of how a retelling would go, but Kester Grant does a wonderful job of reimagining the story with just a few elements you may recognise. I loved the idea of the various guilds that make up the court, and the basically untouchable leaders that run them, but equally felt a thrill every time I recognised a little something from the original. My favourite, without a doubt, was the appearance of Javert.
Nina’s fierce determination to protect her sisters, one by blood, one by circumstance, was admirable, and really carried the story along. I loved the little touches of humour, that took the edge off what may otherwise be a fairly dark book. The Tiger, in contrast to Nina, was a completely terrifying villain, genuinely making me shudder on more than one occasion. I felt the characters all leapt off the pages, and my heart was in my mouth worrying that something bad would happen to any of my favourites. There is sincere peril through every page, and I was never really sure if even Nina would make it out alive.
I think there was only really one major thing that bothered me about the book. Nina is described often as plain and not especially beautiful (although she is undoubtably incredibly intelligent), yet every man she encounters seems to have a developing crush on her. There were at least three ‘love interests’, most of whom seem the opposite of Nina in their strikingly, stunning good looks and wealth. Whilst there is nothing akin to actual romance, it did distract me a little from the overall plot, and I think I personally would have just preferred those elements not to have been in the book.
Fast paced and imaginative, the book had me hooked pretty much from start to finish. I’ll be joining the hoards of people waiting for news of book two. I can’t wait to see what happens next, and what fresh enemies Nina will be making in the second instalment!