Release Date: 19th June, 2020
Genre: Historical Fantasy – Young Adult
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thank you to HarperVoyager for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley.
I was super excited to dive into this book, having heard so many good things about it. It’s been on my radar since I first heard about it – a Les Mis, Jungle Book mashup? Yes please! And it really did not disappoint.
The Court of Miracles follows Eponine (Nina), as she first flees her father and his ally, The Tiger, and joins with the Thieves Guild in the Court of Miracles. When her adopted sister Cosette (Ettie) catches the eye of the ruthless Tiger, Nina has to make a choice. She has to find a way to protect Ettie, but doing so could cause a war between the guilds.
Eponine has always been one of my favourite Les Misérables characters, next to Valjean, but in the various productions (love the musical, tried to read the book and keep meaning to try again but haven’t yet) I’ve usually found Marius and Cosette to be really dull. The other characters just come across as more interesting, and I could never help but find Marius frustrating. Luckily, Grant alters things enough there isn’t really a Marius, Eponine has no unrequited love, and Cosette is adorable and sweet, with these two girls getting a much stronger sister-type relationship. Instead, Marius’ ‘role’ in the story is fulfilled by various characters, who, reading between the lines, seem to pine after Nina, though she has much bigger worries on her mind and no time to deal with these silly men, meaning Romance doesn’t really have huge a place here. (I love Romance. I love reading romantic relationships, but it felt like the way Grant handled it here was done really well.)
It’s fun, too, trying to work out who might be who, as we’re given hints to various characters backstories, including Javert. The way Grant introduces these characters and has them act around each other plays out really well.
And as for where The Jungle Book comes in, the Court of Miracles is set up like Mowgli’s jungle. Roles are named after various animals, though the ‘Ghosts’ are akin to the monkeys, even stealing away various characters. The parallels with Jungle Book are closer to Kipling’s work than the Disney film/s. Like Les Mis, I’m more familiar with adaptions rather than the original, but a few months ago I did listen to an excellent Audible version of Mowgli’s adventures, and through this I can see how Kester Grant has taken Mowgli’s journey and sort of transported it to 1800s Paris.
Like Nina in The Court of Miracles, Mowgli has his adopted family – the wolves or, for Nina, the thieves’ guild – but there are others looking out for them as well. There is no overarching set goal for Mowgli in the version I heard, but instead it was more a set of stories about his various dealings. But for her own goal, Nina has to move about the court, meeting with different guilds and making deals, or finding some way to convince them to work with her. And of course, the Tiger himself is a stand in for Shere Khan, pushed to the borders of society, forced into some sort of exile before returning and claiming anything he believes he is owed.
This is a book I thoroughly enjoyed, and a world I loved spending time in. It’s engrossing, though I would suggest maybe don’t go looking for historical accuracies, as the fantasy element is much stronger. There’s a lot more going on outside Nina’s own quest too, especially in regards to the stirrings of revolution, and Nina is able to, uniquely, move from the court, to the group of revolutionaries, to the presence of the royals themselves.
To me, this book has some really solid worldbuilding, great characters, and a gripping storyline. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for book 2 of the series.