October 28, 2020

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

WE DID THE THING! Becky And I Dissected Kester Grant’s Debut Court Of Miracles As Well As Frasier and Niles Crane…

Welcome to my first buddy read with Becky from Crooks Books!With loads of action, a great backdrop and fantastic dialogue, Kester Grant's Court of Miracles is a fantastic debut and start of a new Young Adult series. It is also the first that actually might just have enough similarities to make the comparable content to make the Six of Crows marketing work.

Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

Captain America take ten. He has to get tired of this but as long as it keeps coming up, I’m going with it. Let’s see what we have this time. Kester Grant’s Court of Miracles actually has 3 comp titles to live up to- one of which Becky has to completely explain to me because I didn’t even think I had heard of it.

We have the Jungle Book, Les Misérables and Six of Crows. So… the Jungle Book… Yeah. No. Until Becky mentioned the Disney Movie? That didn’t even ring a bell with me. In fact, I was worse off than Captain America, so I won’t insult his meme. Once she mentioned the movie? Well. I haven’t seen it all the way through. So, still. No. Les Misérables ? I know it has something to do about poor (Edited because that said POO people) people during the French Revolution and was a popular Broadway play. That’s all I’ve got. So…

Captain America Doesn't Understand Any of these References



And then of course, let’s just go ahead and trot out the Six of Crows reference because every book from There Will Come a Darkness (WHICH I LOVE) to Ink in the Blood (which left me afflicted in the best of ways) has been, so why not? Because NONE of them are ANYTHING like it. BUT, hey!

Captain America

Funny thing about Court of Miracles though- it might be the first to actually have that comparison make sense, but I’m going to get to that later. Right now, this is where my reference points lie. I’ve got nothing on the first two except I do know a bit about the French Revolution because I’m a bit of a history geek (more American but still we had some hands in that because Thomas Jefferson…) and so, yeah. The rest, not really. I feel it is important to make these things clear. Now that, that is out of the way…


BUDDY READS!

John Snow


Becky and I have been threatening to do a buddy read since the whole Jay Kristoff haunts my TBR thing started. Seriously. it has been that long. We kinda did one around Aurora Burning but that was more or less us screaming at each other through direct message (Here is Becky’s Review of Aurora Burning). After that we buckled down and got serious. Court of Miracles became the crash test dummy and then I believe Angel of the Crows (which will be added to the next update of the Spring/Summer Fling 2020) is up next. Here is some fun insight:

 


How To Not Info Dump- A Master Class

Huh. This is a debut, right?

Side note: Yes. I just did a Saturday Top 5 about debut novels to keep on your radar. However, I wanted to keep that to ones I hadn’t yet, read and I was just finishing Court of Miracles.

Back to the above. Debut, yes? Yes. Well. Kester Grant turned this debut into a master class on how to not make the first book in a series feel like an info dump. You know. Kinda like this:

How to get away with murder
Damn you Ms. Rhimes.

How did she do this. Oh wow. Court of Miracles has a lot going on.

  1. Guilds – Gamblers, Assassins, Beggars, Mergenaries, Smugglers, Thieves, Flesh and Dreamers
  2. Laws (Constitution) of the Miracle Court
  3. Founding of the Miracle Court, Back stories of the characters, the head of each guild etc.

Court of Miracles could’ve needed a study guide to go with it. Instead, Grant not only avoided the need for cliff notes she pretty much avoided info dump feel. Through very savvy structuring, Grant provides all the information you need and holds off on what you don’t throughout the first book in the series.

  1. In the front part of the book each guild has its own, card so to say (this is, I imagine, going to look wicked in the final copy, and provides some amazing art opportunity for any books subscription boxes- just a thought) including their motto, Lord and master.
  2. The constitution is also laid out for easy referencing right after the above.
  3. In between each part (there are four) there is an interlude. It isn’t long. I’m not sure what it’ll be in the final copy, but it wasn’t more than three of kindle pages. So, I would imagine 1.5 book pages. Maybe, two pages. Those interludes provide stories that are pertinent background information. I won’t say more because of spoilers.
  4. You don’t meet every guild in the first book and those you do; don’t all have the same part to play. This is a series. There is plenty to come. It takes a lot to know how to maneuver that push and pull.


Pacing

Kester is able to slam headfirst right into the action and take-off from there, mainly because of the above. Having all that information as a reference point and providing the interludes as and when needed, sets the story up for a faster pace. She definitely takes advantage of that opportunity. The height of danger, emotional stakes and desperation is apparent right away.

And it only gets worse from there. I believe the only concern Becky and I had heard going into Court of Miracles was about the pacing. We had both heard it was slow. Neither one of us found that to be true at all. The entire book moved like a flash.

The action, tension and build in climax were all evenly placed throughout the book. There weren’t chunks that felt like “downtime” that dragged on too long at any point.


Day Walkers And Wretched

Now these are the of
the Miracle Court,…
the Wretched that keep
them may prosper,
but the Wretched that
break them must die.

Most of the main characters are made up of those from the guild, the wretched, the underbelly of society. They do not mix from those that walk by day. They are the proper citizens of the world. Not even the noble. Then you have the noble, of course.

Nina is the main character and she is impossible not to root for through the choices she makes and those choices that are made for her. Often capable of more than she realizes until she is forced into situations where she must just walk into situations where she is expected to die. Then she finds out what she is made of, truly. Nina’s life is full of so much pain and heartbreak. She fights and fights because that is who she is.

Court of Miracles Review

Thank you to Knopf Books and Edelweiss/NetGalley for an Arc in exchange for an honest review.


Ettie is another delightful character whose arc is a delight. Her change from the beginning of the book to the end is absolutely incredible. She is one character that I absolutely cannot wait to hear more from in the next book.

There are many backstories yet to be told. Kester has created a strong set of secondary characters that have very important roles yet to play. Their backstories will be essential to the next book in the series. The same is definitely true for the guilds that we have not yet met or saw less of than the Assassins, Thieves, Ghosts and Flesh. Noblemen and day walkers that Nina has now intertwined her fate with, are also now a big part of what’s to come. Kester has written them with the same depth, complexities and realism that will leave readers as entrenched in their story, as Nina’s and the guilds.

Kester’s strength is definitely in character writing, action and dialogue. Court of Miracles could easily have been written from multiple points of view. I wonder if that might be considered for book two?



Themes

Kester hits so many huge themes in Court of Miracles. There is one I can talk about safely in some depth. The rest, I’m going to touch on vaguely because of spoilers. I will say that many of them of very heavy, dark and Kester never once shies away from the brutality of these themes.

The affect and implications of keeping promises and/or when you literally do everything you can but still fail to keep promises is an overarching theme of Court of Miracles. This is speaking to those rare people that are left in the world who take a promise to their core. Those that truly live by a promise speaking to their character. Their word is their bond. They will do everything to keep promises they make, and they don’t make them lightly.

There will be consequences to people around you, when you live by this oath. Inevitably it will cause conflict, and not everyone is built for conflict. Many would much rather take the easy way out. It is often easier to say, “sorry I thought I could,” than to keep your word.

There are times when you can do everything in your power to keep a promise and still fail. For those that do live by their word as their oath. That sense of moral code can drive you to actions and emotions that are far reaching. Kester explores all of this with great depth and far reaching emotional dynamics. It plays to the relationships in the book and to the growth of the characters.

  1. Classism
    • One point of this that could be a great reflection of what is happening in the United States right now.
  2. Sexual Slavery (Slavery in general)
  3. Human Trafficking
  4. Opium Addiction


World Building

Quickly. Becky had a much better time with it. We boiled it down to Les Misérables . I don’t know Les Misérables . I felt like this was the one point in the book where it could have been strengthened. Becky said it was perfect. So, it may be a Les Misérables thing.

In my defense, I would like to say that, that was my whole point all along with Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son being an Urban Fantasy, set in NYC.  I’ll leave that, there.

Girl and all the stars



 Six of Crows

This is plot and Six of Crows mashed up a bit. The summary of the plot is in the Spring/Summer Fling 2020 post if you need it for reference.

Too many books have been compared to Six of Crows. And it isn’t fair to any book or author involved. A lot of incredible books. Some of my favorite books of the past year, even. None of them are anything like Six of Crows. It is just bad marketing. So, of course, when I went into Court of Miracles, I did not expect anything Six of Crows related. I just. No.

I’m not sure at what point the connections started firing off in my brain. Once they did, they started going off full throttle. Disclaimer time: This isn’t a comparison as far as better or worst. Nothing will ever take its place with me as far as Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. That just won’t happen. All I’m saying is that outside of Gilded Wolves? This is the first book to come around with distinct content elements that give me the ability to honestly say- why yes, yes this can be compared to Six of Crows with a backdrop of alt-history in the French Revolution.

What I ended up doing and I think is better for everyone involved, is making a chart. If I do this in paragraph form, the review will need chapters. And dear lord, let me not.

 

Court of Miracles Six of Crows

Nina (Court of Miracles Nina)- I’m going to do this in one sentence, leave it here and move one. First, because of spoilers. Two, because I want to see if anyone else agrees without my details influencing them. Three, because again, I’ll end-up needing chapters. If you take Kaz and Inej and throw them in a blender… ew. Gross. Seriously. You get Nina.

Kester Grant Quote

Edited to add… because… I just… yeah.



PS. I would say Nina’s recruitment of the other guilds is as dysfunctional as our dear Crows.


QUESTIONS QUESTIONS QUESTIONS!

Becky (here is the link to her review one more time) and I came up with fun questions for us to answer and here are my answers.

  1. What guild would you like to be a part of?
    • Assassin- now hear me out.
      • I live in America and there is a certain someone who HAS GOT TO GO.
      • Truly, I would rather be a part of the other side of the assassins that make potions and stuff just so I can make one potion for one certain someone to make him come to his senses.
      • So, in all honesty, I’m probably better suited to be a ghost because, well, I am.

  2. What character do you most relate to?
    • Nina, definitely. I mean I haven’t been through quite what she has, and I can’t say what those things are, exactly. I do relate to a lot of what she feels and why she takes the actions that she does. Since I also think she is a mix of Kaz and Inej that probably shouldn’t shock anyone. Unfortunately, like Kaz, I don’t have her or his brilliant mind or mad thieving skills. So, I would suck at everything she does.

  3. Pick your own Avengers style squad from the Guilds and Day walkers. Full disclosure- Becky beat me to the answer I wanted so we have the same answer

    • Ok so Nina (Thieves), Montparnasse (Assassins), Gavroche (Ghosts), Le Maire (Letters) and St Juste (Day-Walkers.) I won’t tell you why because that would bring about a whole host of spoilers but please take part in this once you have read the book!

  4. Who are you favorite and least favorite character?

    Favorite:  Ettie (but after X) lol

    Least Favorite: Lord Kaplan


  5. Becky says in her review that there are 5 questions we should answer but she only answered 4 :)- I think the 5 was an if you like- then you will like… So, I’m gonna answer then ask her…

Obviously, I’m going to go with Six Of Crows. I’m going to say Gilded Wolves but not for the same reason as SOC. I’m saying Gilded Wolves because it has strong characters, the action and it is set in early France. it is also has a sibling relationship.

I had a third but now I can’t remember it. So, I will come back and add it as soon as I remember- A day later and I still can’t remember?!

 

I hope you enjoyed our first buddy read!!!!!! I’m thrilled that it was Court of Miracles!

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