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Robins takes the disguise even further: even the narrative itself, told in third person, refers to Maledicte as "he" ninety-five percent of the time, reverting to the female pronoun only when making a particular point. This has the potential to be annoying and affected, but is instead effective. The story begins when Janus, Miranda's almost-brother, almost-lover street rat friend, is abducted by the Earl of Last, who suddenly wants to turn his bastard son into a legitimate heir. The story leaps forward to an ignorant, violent boy who infiltrates the home of the Baron Vornatti's home and starts nosing around for information about the Earl. This is Miranda, of course, now calling himselfMaledicte, and so begins a long transformation from street rat to nobleman to the latest flavor in the King's court. What is not immediately apparent is that Maledicte now wields a lethal sword and a disturbing dark power.
Certainly Maledictev has an interesting premise, and Maledicte's relationships with his patron Baron and the Baron's servant, Gilly, are rich and complex. He also has a close and dangerous relationship with Black-Winged Ani, a vengeful and merciless exiled god who promised Miranda the means for revenge. Miranda's surrender to Black-Winged Ani takes place entirely offscreen, an interesting and effective choice that allows the author to reveal information gradually. The book has two problems, however. First, there are so many characters, several of them similarly named and often within the same paragraph (Aris, Auron, Adiran, Ani), that it's difficult to keep them straight. Second, once Maledicte moves on from the Baron to loftier prey, there are so many thrusts and parries of intrigue within the King's court that it becomes a bit tedious. By the end of the book, I did not care what happened to Janus, my interest in Maledicte/Miranda had also waned, and only Gilly managed to retain my interest and sympathy. But even though Maledicte and Gilly's multi-faceted relationship provides a real note of poignancy, it's difficult to believe that Gilly could live with and serve Maledicte for so long without discovering his secret.
In spite of this, Maledicte is worth reading for those who appreciate dark fantasy and intrigue, loyalty and revenge. But readers may also care to seek out Mélusine by Sarah Monette and its sequels, which likewise concern court machinations and complicated sexuality, but which manage to evoke stronger empathy for the characters.
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