Corambis by Sarah Monette – review

CORAMBIS (Doctrine of Labyrinths, book 4) by Sarah Monette
Ace, 2009, 421 pages, 978-0-441-02596-2, Hardcover, $24.95

Genre: Fantasycorambis

Three-quarters of the way through this novel I became convinced that someone was going to die in a bog.

In fact, I had this great big theory about it all which was, of course, totally erroneous considering I have the deductive powers of a slightly crazed hamster. Nevertheless, I briefly feared for Felix in the matter. But that’s neither here nor there.

Back to reality….

Sarah Monette ends her four book Doctrines of Labyrinth series with what, to me, seems the most appropriate ending possible. There’s closure here, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t immensely relieved (and utterly giddy, I should point out) by the form this wrap up takes.

Following the events of The Mirador, Felix and Mildmay travel to the city of Esmer in Corambis where Felix must submit himself to the judgment of the Corambin wizards. But getting to Esmer proves a more difficult objective than expected when Mildmay falls ill and Felix is forced to keep them financially afloat by whatever means are at his disposal. At the same time, Kay Brightmore, who has been fighting in an insurrection against the Corambins with Prince Gerrard Hume of Caloxa, loses his comrades and his sight in an attempt to revive the mysterious engine beneath Summerdown. No longer able to fight for himself, he, too, must submit to the will of the Corambins.

As far as summaries go I expect that’s woefully inadequate, but I don’t want to push it. I carefully avoided spoilers while waiting on my copy of the book (and for shame, Borders, you still haven’t called me about my pre-order. Oh well…there were other venues at my disposal….), and I’d like to avoid giving too much away to someone who might just be happening by.

But back to the point—this conclusion was perfect from the perspective of character development and tying-it-all-together. Some might argue that the action was a little slow, but I would disagree. I think the pacing moves along very well for the purposes of this novel. I mean, if we were reading about some mega-quest or a battle, then yeah, that’s one thing. But for me this series has always been about the characters, and to that end it’s just right.

Now this next bit isn’t really spoiler-y to me, but I’m going to make a cut here just in case. Even implications can be too much for some people.

Felix gets a lot of play time in this volume, and I feel like this portion of the story is really about how he comes to grips with certain aspects of his own personality. For those who have always liked Felix, that’s a bonus for you. For those who have always been on the line about him, don’t worry—I think you’ll be able to safely put aside any hard feelings. For myself, I experienced a sense of satisfaction regarding the character and the same goes for his relationship with Mildmay. I always wondered how things were going to finally work out between them, and I think the end of this novel makes that pretty clear.

For the most part, you won’t see any returning characters beyond Felix and Mildmay. The characters left behind at the end of The Mirador don’t reprise their roles in Corambis but, personally, I don’t miss them. Now, don’t take that to mean that I didn’t like them—I most certainly did. But their stories ended in the third book, at least insofar as they tied in with Felix with Mildmay’s stories, which makes their absence appropriate even if it does bother some people.

In any case, there are other characters that make their first appearances in Corambis, and they do an excellent job as supporting cast. Readers will enjoy getting to know them, though they might be a little disappointed that we’re not likely to hear more about them anytime soon.

Overall, I found this book very satisfying. Experiencing the journey through Felix and Mildmay, both of whom find everything about Corambis just as new as the readers do, is immensely fun. And getting to the end of their major character development makes the entire ride worthwhile. Sure, I’m a little sad that the story is over, but I don’t think it could have had a better ending.

Chances that Corambis will be high in the TRE Top Ten for 2009? Extremely high.

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