To my great chagrin, The Mirador, the third book in Sarah Monette’s The Doctrine of Labyrinth series, is the last book in the series currently available. The fourth and final book Corambis has a projected publication date of sometime in 2009. The first two books in the series wrapped up a complete story arc and this novel takes place approximately two years after the end of The Virtu. While this book is slower-paced than either of its predecessors, it is a very enjoyable followup to the first two books.
Mildmay has been involved with Mehitabel Parr, who is now an actress in Melusine. One night after a performance, Mehitabel is visited by a man from her past who blackmails her into spying for the Bastion, an enemy of the Mirador. Afterwards, Mehitabel takes out her rage on Mildmay when he comes to see her, letting it slip that sometimes he confuses her with his long-dead girlfriend Ginevra. This causes Mildmay to return to the Lower City against Felix’s will to seek the truth about who leaked the information that got Ginevra killed. Meanwhile Felix and Gideon are still together in a rocky relationship and a lot of angst ensues.
There was less plot advancement in The Mirador than the first two books in the series with even more focus on internal conflicts than the previous books, but it was still so absorbing that I did not even notice until I tried to write a plot summary in my head. A lot happened at the end giving it that “middle book” feeling in which it is largely setting up the next book. The end was filled with tension, dark and disturbing, and has the most shocking conclusion of any of the three books.
Mehitabel joins Felix and Mildmay as a point of view character. I would have preferred if the whole story had been told from the perspectives of the ex-thief/assassin and his wizard half-brother. Mehitabel’s character played the role of the observer for the most part and she simply didn’t hold my interest as a person – she was too well-grounded for a story that is largely appealing for the conflicted and troubled people. There were some advantages to reading from her perspective, however. It was at times interesting to see Felix and/or Mildmay through someone else’s eyes and Mehitabel did become entangled in some court intrigue that allowed us to see glimpses of Shannon and the Lord Protector in a new light. Although the main characters in this series are exceptionally well-written, all the minor characters have always been rather flat and Mehitabel’s viewpoint did show them with more depth than the previous installments.
In spite of these insights into some of the minor characters, I would trade them for more of the main two characters any day, particularly since there was not enough Felix in this book. Most of the book alternated between Mildmay and Mehitabel. While I love reading anything about Mildmay and thought Monette did a fantastic job of developing him further in this book, I find Felix’s character fascinating and really missed reading about him as much as in the first two books. He is not the nicest character even though he is not intentionally spiteful, but he is so tormented and intriguing.
Another aspect of this book that was a little disappointing was that Felix and Mildmay spent so little time together in it. The two brothers largely avoided each other and became involved in their own side stories. I was going to say that their relationship was not explored in this book, but I changed my mind since it certainly was developing their connection and in character for both of them. Neither of them likes to talk about anything with great meaning and are private people when it comes to their inner thoughts; the two are so different yet in many ways so similar. It makes perfect sense that the close link of the obligation dame would drive them even further apart eventually. It was still frustrating to see them both so distant still after two years, but the fact that it is so upsetting just shows that Monette is a masterful writer to make you care about what happens to these people so much.
In spite of a few quibbles, I very much enjoyed this novel and found it difficult to put down, although it did not enchant me as much as The Virtu. Those who enjoyed the atmosphere and world-building aspects of the earlier books more than the characterization may be disappointed, as well as the few Felix fans who exist. Yet the resolution shows definite promise for a return to the elements that made the former book a personal favorite and I eagerly await the release of the next installment in what is now one of my favorite series of all time.
Read the first chapter on Sarah Monette’s website. The first four chapters of The Mirador are available, as well as the first four of The Virtu.