Corambis is the fourth and final book in Sarah Monette’s character-driven fantasy series, The Doctrine of Labyrinth. The first three books are Melusine, The Virtu, and The Mirador, respectively, and should definitely be read in that order. This is one of my favorite series of all time so Corambis was the 2009 release I was most looking forward to. While I enjoyed Corambis very much and thought it a satisfying end to the series, it did not linger with me after I finished reading it to the same extent as the first three books. The quality of writing and characterization were still excellent, so I think this one just didn’t have as many elements that appeal to me personally as the rest of the series.
For this particular novel, I have decided to skip a plot summary because I cannot think of a way of writing even a short one with any substance that does not give away too much. This is a book largely about one character’s internal journey and not a whole lot happens in the part of the novel that I consider early enough not to be part of spoiler territory. Also, some of what does happen is not anything I would want to know before reading this book. This is the fourth book in a series so I imagine most people who would be reading this one have read enough to know what the story is about and whether or not they would like to read this one anyway.
Like The Mirador before it, Corambis is told from the viewpoint of both Felix and Mildmay plus one new perspective, belonging to a warrior involved in a rebellion by the name of Kay. Unlike the character Mehitabel, who narrated part of The Mirador, Kay is a completely new character who is never introduced in the series until his narration begins on page one of Corambis. Although I understand the inclusion of some new perspectives, I still found myself impatient to read about Mildmay and Felix since they have the strongest voices and I became very attached to both of them in the first two books. However, I did find Kay to be a lot more interesting than Mehitabel, particularly since he did seem more important.
Unfortunately for those who despise Felix, this is his story. Of course, he is the central character to the series, but The Mirador did have more scenes about Mildmay and he was the one to undergo some major development in that novel. However, Felix does grow a lot as a person in Corambis. He still has his issues and past torments and he’s still no angel but he’s not a stagnant character either. Personally, Mildmay is my favorite but I still love Felix, too, and was disappointed that his sections in the previous book were overwhelmed by more space dedicated to Mehitabel and Mildmay (mostly Mehitabel). Felix gets plenty of time in this book but this time Mildmay’s narratives are few and far between. Part of the reason this installment was not as compelling to me as the others was the lack of Mildmay. Felix is much more serious in his thoughts, and Mildmay’s straightforward way of telling it like it is is very refreshing and adds some humor. Plus Mildmay’s personality is so similar to mine that I have more empathy for him than any other character in fiction and could very much relate to him. Since he was not present as much, I did not have those moments where I could have sworn Mildmay was just like I would have been were I an assassin/kept thief growing up in the streets of Melusine.
Overall, Corambis was not as dark as the other novels in the series (and I’m sure you all know by now that I have a masochistic streak when it comes to my reading – the darker, the better). There were definitely still parts that qualified as plenty dark, but it seemed to have less of that tone overall.
Other than Felix and Mildmay, none of the characters from Melusine were in this book. I was not particularly attached to any of the minor characters, but I did miss the petty wizards of the Mirador and the city itself. Corambis was an interesting setting, but it didn’t have the same flair as Melusine for me. It was a more stifling atmosphere.
In spite of the fact that I didn’t have the urge to devote a shrine to this book, I still loved reading about Mildmay and Felix and the way they contrast each other. Felix is so educated and book smart but completely lacking in common sense. Mildmay lacks formal education and constantly annoys Felix with his bad grammar but tends to make all the intelligent observations and connections. His comments and way of thinking about the world around him often made me stop and snicker. As always, Monette excelled at writing the perspectives of both characters and making me care about them.
Although my thoughts didn’t return to it as often as I expected after reading the last sentence, Corambis was well worth reading for more on Felix and Mildmay, two of my favorite characters ever created. It still makes me sad to think this is the last new novel I’ll read about them.
Other reviews of Corambis:
Other reviews of books in The Doctrine of Labyrinth series: