This was such a gritty and compelling read!
I got this one from the library because I was super curious after all the mixed reviews. I kind of feel the pitches its been given are a disservice to it. It’s meant to be a “fantasy Six of Crows meets Les Mis x Jungle Book” and like 👀 Yes it’s definitely a Les Mis retelling, but there aren’t fantasy/magic elements at all AND it’s got thieves, but not a heist. I also don’t know what the Jungle Book aspect is. There is no jungle 😪 It’s also written in a literary/classic style instead of the typical YA voice or structure — but I liked that about it. It was different. I try to go into books reading them for what they are, not what I wish they would be.
Now Les Mis confession time!! I have (a) not seen or read Les Mis, and (b) do not intend to. 😂 I only know vague things (I did watch 30mins of the musical with my sister before I needed to escape…musicals and I simply Do Not) Like Javert and Jean Valjean exist. And there’s that little blonde girl? And everyone makes blockades and a small boy sings aggressively with a British accent despite the fact they are in France and they all get shot. That’s about it. Pretty sure all the die-hard fans winced and disowned me. (I am sorry.) So I really can’t compare what kind of retelling this was because I graciously know nothing. (Also Javert is a girl here 😂.)
This is how it started;
with a sister weeping in her bed;
a child so terrified she sold herself to a thief;
a girl so lovely, the world went to war to possess her
Anyway all that aside, I enjoyed myself! The story captures the gritty, depravity of the time, of the starving poor and the violently oblivious rich. It contrasts the lavish nobles with the kids on the street who are no more than bones, literally eating each other. There is the revolution plot line of course, but it’s mostly focused on Nina and her desperate need to save her sister. This a book on sister-love, on how one girl will sacrifice everything and use and manipulate an entire city if she has to — all to save her sister. But she tries to bargain with a small orphan girl as bate (Ettie) and ends up not being able to do it, and thus has another sister she’s desperate to save. The things Nina does is incredible. The cons she weaves, the deceptions. The prison breaks, the promises, the abuse endured. The determination clenched between her teeth. It’s a story layered in desperation and betrayal, and in the purest form of love.
I actually would say it didn’t have a romance? There’s a few boys a bit in love with Nina, but I really felt zero interest in her to them. 😂 Bless. I did love how she used St. Juste and was basically like “sorry boi” but he grumpily kept forgiving her. And the prince was an interesting character, but too alarmingly naive for Nina not to want to stab him at all times.
I also quite don’t remember everyone’s names, but the cast of characters was colourful, terrifying, wicked and wonderful. The villains were horrific and while it wasn’t graphically written, the implied darkness was deep.
The style, admittedly, isn’t my favourite, but I enjoyed it for being different. By the ending I was so engaged and rooting for Nina. And my favourite part? The absolute viciously unbreakable love and loyalty of found-family. Of these street kids who have nothing and no one but would die for each other. How Nina would literally do ANYTHING to save Ettie. That kind of love eclipses the sun and you can feel it beating through each page.
A diverse fantasy reimagining of Les Misérables and The Jungle Book.
In the dark days following a failed French Revolution, in the violent jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, young cat-burglar Eponine (Nina) Thenardier goes head to head with merciless royalty, and the lords of the city’s criminal underworld to save the life of her adopted sister Cosette (Ettie).
Her vow will take her from the city’s dark underbelly, through a dawning revolution, to the very heart of the glittering court of Louis XVII, where she must make an impossible choice between guild, blood, betrayal and war.