Good god, this series is like crack.
I took my time with The Virtu. I sprinted through The Mirador (Doctrine of Labyrinths #3), which picks up two years after the events in The Virtu. The same advice rings true: read this series sequentially or you will be helplessly, mindlessly lost.
I’ll start with Mildmay, because, well, Mildmay.
Milmay has buried his memories of Malkar so deeply he swears he doesn’t remember any of it, a deeply unsettling PTSD tactic that has taken a palpable toll on his relationships. Felix is terror-struck to pry Mildmay’s armor apart due to his own self-loathing and involvement in Mildmay’s trauma. No one cares about Mildmay—from his lover Mehitabel Parr to Felix himself—which Felix’s lover, Gideon, painfully points out. While Mehitabel and Felix fret about Mildmay’s damage from a distance, neither has the balls to ask him about it outright. Predictably, relationships begin to disintegrate and the Mirador’s politics become increasingly convoluted. Soon, Felix and Mildmay uncover a mystery full of treasonous acts that have been in play for decads (yes, that’s right. Decads.) and are only now beginning to reach fruition.
If The Virtu represented Mildmay’s utter depression, The Mirador shows his destructive don’t-give-a-shit assassin side. Which, isn’t saying much because let’s be real, the day Mildmay doesn’t care is the day Hell freezes over. At least he’s more proactive about getting what he wants, especially after his depression scares him enough that he has to do something, even if that means resolving an age-old issue back in Melusine (Book 1). He’s on the hunt to figure out who sold him out and killed his old flame, Ginevra, even if he blatantly ignores the elephant in the room—which is the mental and physical torture he experienced during The Virtu in case you didn’t catch on to that.
Even though the series gets a lot of leeway from me (with such a diverse, magical world crafted in front of me, it was hard not to!) this was semi-frustrating because character development skidded to a stop. Mildmay resolved some past issues, but the big problem from the previous book wasn’t touched.
On the other side of the coin, Felix continues to struggle with accepting his darker nature. He uses his fear to destroy his relationship with Gideon. Gideon, practically a recluse and accused of being a Bastion spy, isn’t comfortable with his sexual inclinations, which causes Felix to clam up regarding his actual needs. While Felix cheats on Gideon to take his mind off the fact that he’s a terrible person, he never completely gives his heart to Gideon, and uses his past as an excuse to not fix the relationship. It’s one of those relationships that will look good in retrospective, but when knee-deep in the muck, there’s not much there.
Felix continues treating Mildmay like a slave, then wonders why Mildmay doesn’t trust him. I don’t mean to sound so cruel—both characters are near and dear to my heart—but Felix is the one who understands his destructive habits, pinpoints them for what they are, and yet still continues to be ruled by them.
I’m twitterpated by the series, so take that into account. I’m still halfway to gathering Felix and Mildmay and treating them like they’re my own babies who need some lovings. Shower them with treats and pets and gifts.
The Mirador is not as good as The Virtu in that a lot of things happen that don’t have much build up to them. I’m specifically thinking about Mildmay suddenly remembering someone who tortured him in the Bastion who’s been in front of his face the whole novel. The main plot wraps up fairly quickly and regarding how carefully the mystery is laid out, it’s kind of a bummer. The characters don’t learn much—except for maybe Mildmay, who still is just as enamored with Felix—but instead of simply taking the abuse, he does seek out what he wants, which takes the reader on a delightful exploration of the Lower City, which I would absolutely die to adventure into more.
Mildmay and Felix interact with characters they normally wouldn’t, which disrupts the Felix/Mildmay dynamic. That being said, it also introduces Mehitabel as a POV character, which I have some issues with. By disrupting Mildmay and Felix’s alternating viewpoints, it provides a modicum of outside perspective, but it also indicates she has something important to say, and at the end I would have been more satisfied if she had been eliminated altogether.
Not to say she wasn’t well written. Mehitabel has an incredible history, but the end result doesn’t mean much. And as how Felix was exiled at the end of the novel, I don’t quite see how her asides on theater and courtship with Stephen Teverius will have much impact on the next novel. She seems to be more of a connection for Felix and Mildmay to meet other characters while developing characters who had been painted unfavorably by the two main protagonists. While she also provided insight into the Bastion spies (which, SPOILER, she was one), her love story detailing her escape from the Bastion and why the blackmail worked on her left me strangely bereft. It’s explored in such a way that it simply explained why she couldn’t love Mildmay, not why she loved Hallam above all.
I’ll admit, my adoration for the characters and the world let me slip on my rose-colored glasses to enjoy the novel more than I might have with something I wasn’t so invested in. The story is still quite good—I mean, its addictive—and I’d still recommend it to anyone who asks for my top list. I’m excited there’s another installment, because apparently, the rule of ‘I don’t read multiple books in a series one after the other’ has clearly been disproved after the Dark Tower.
That’s okay. Change is good. So is this series.