Read: 11th June 2020 – 14th June 2020
Spoilers in review: Very mild
This novel is a retelling of Les Misérables, focused on Eponine. In this version, ‘Nina’ is a cat burglar for the Thieves Guild, which is part of the criminal underworld of Paris that sprung up after the failure of the revolution. Throughout most of the novel, she fights to protect her younger adoptive sister, Cosette, or ‘Ettie’, from being forced into sexual slavery by the leader of another guild, even if her efforts to protect her sister risk causing an all out war between the guilds.
I wanted to like this book. I usually enjoy retellings, I love strong sibling relationships, and this book is described as being great for fans of Six of Crows, which is a favourite of mine. Alas, it was not meant to be.
First of all, Eponine’s age is a mystery for most of the book. It’s retroactively revealed after the fact that she was nine years old during part 1, which surprised me as I was sure that she was older. But there’s no concrete mention of how much time passes between part 1 and the rest of the novel. For the whole of the rest of the book, Eponine could’ve been anything older than thirteen. She could’ve been in her early twenties for all the reader is told. Also, the barricade boys that show up in the story seem to be in their late teens / early twenties both when Eponine is nine and when she’s older. This is a relatively minor complaint, but the revelation that Eponine had been nine at the start really threw me, and drew my attention to the fact that I didn’t know how old anyone other than Cosette was. My copy of this book is an arc, and maybe the published version will have fixed it. I hope it has.
There was a pattern in this book that I didn’t enjoy. Eponine would be told that she had to break in somewhere, she’d spend a moment to be like oh no, nobody’s ever done that before, it’s impossible!!! , and then she’d go and flawlessly break into the place and achieve her goal and nothing of any real consequence would go wrong. This happened multiple times and became frustrating rather quickly.
A major pet peeve of mine is when the pov character straight up lies to the reader for no good reason. If the pov character knows what’s going on, but needs to pretend that they don’t know what’s going on to the world around them, then fine! Great, even. Clever plans are a lot of fun to read about and we support their inclusion and use. But unless it’s established that the novel is being dictated in-universe by that character, there is no reason for their internal monologue to pretend that they really are as clueless and angry as they’re acting like they are. Either this novel needed to be written in third person, or the reader needed to be looped in at least a little. I don’t mean that every step of her plan should’ve been spelled out ahead of time, I mean that her narration shouldn’t have blatantly lied to the reader. If the reader had been left questioning why Eponine was reacting so strangely to what was going on, only for her reaction to be explained at the reveal, that would’ve been a lot better than what we were left with, which was a plot twist coming at the expense of a logical narrative.
In this retelling, Javert is a woman. When this was first revealed I was hyped about it! A reveal/implication that comes later on made me a little more about it. Genderbending for the sake of heterosexuality is not something that I’m a fan of.
Also, how many love interests does Eponine need? Did she really need three? I don’t think she needed three.
There were some things that I enjoyed about this book! Lots of the characters were poc, so it was very diverse in that regard. I enjoyed some of the interactions we see between Cosette and Eponine, and I wish there’d been more showing how much they care about each other. I also enjoyed watching Eponine develop her friendships with people from all walks of life. There were some definite found family feelings in this book. Only some, though.
When talking to my partner about this book, I said ‘I’ve read worse books than this’, which they then insisted that I include in my review. So here, I have now done so.
As it stands, I probably won’t be in any rush to read the rest of this series when it’s released. If reviews of later books indicate any improvement then I might, but it won’t be a priority.
I was provided with an e-arc from the author in return for an honest review. Any quotes referenced may differ in the published version.
Review originally written in 2020, prior to this blog’s creation