In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.
I saw Les Miserables on Broadway years ago, but I honestly don’t remember anything about it. Musicals aren’t really my thing, but I was outvoted on our show choice that night. The biggest reason I requested this book was the comparison to Six of Crows.
Knowing little to nothing about Les Mis, I probably missed most of the same character names, plot points, etc., but I don’t think lack of knowledge of that story should hinder anyone reading this novel. The descriptions of the nine guilds at the beginning were a little overwhelming at first, but they quickly became one of my favorite parts of the story. Nina’s world is dark, gritty, and dangerous – starvation, sex slavery, and death are common; consequently, she has to learn to adapt and survive at an early age. Strong, fierce, and clever, she’s an easy character to root for. Pacing is brisk and tense heists are plenty, but a couple of time jumps may leave you struggling for a few pages to find your footing.
I did question how a nine-year-old Nina in one night transforms into a talented thief who evades highly-trained royal guards. Maybe some backstory woven in to explain her skills would have helped. Something I didn’t connect with at all was her strong bond with Ettie and willingness to sacrifice nearly everything for her. After a several years time jump, Ettie is suddenly there, and the reader is given no history of their relationship. Initially, Nina is planning to sell Ettie into sex slavery to save her own sister, but then changes her mind. Nearly everything that happens from that point on is due to their sisterly relationship, and the lack of connection on my part made it difficult to understand Nina’s choices.
Don’t get me wrong – I definitely enjoyed this story. It’s a wonderful debut with charismatic characters and some suprisingly humorous moments. Prior knowledge of Les Mis isn’t required, but you may get more from the story if you’re familiar with it.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.