Maledicte - Lane Robins Rating: Falls somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars

I'm a sucker for good revenge fantasies, particularly ones where the avenger realizes (often, alas, too late) how pointless their vengeance has become when they finally achieve it. (When I first read The Count of Monte Cristo, I think that's one of the points that endeared it to me: Edmund's realization at the end that he had wasted decades of his life to achieve what? A hollow victory, indeed.)

Maledicte fulfills all my expectations of a good revenge fantasy. It's the story of Miranda/Maledicte, a child of the slums, whose life with her closest friend and lover, Janus, is torn apart when Janus' father, Lord Last, "retrieves" him from the slums. It turns out that Janus is Last's bastard son, and Last has lost all other heirs to his legacy. Miranda's tragedy is just the opening that Black Winged Ani, goddess of love and vengeance, needs to reenter the world; thus, Maledicte is born. Perforce, Miranda must become Maledicte, the male protege of the corrupt Baron Vornatti, in order to infiltrate the kingdom of Antyre's court, where she (ahem, "he") can kill Lord Last and be reunited with Janus. If there were any justification for the barbarism "s/he," it's Maledicte. I liked how Robins used the pronoun in the book to keep us in the minds of "Miranda" and "Maledicte" and jumbled them at the points where Miranda and Maledicte him/herself got confused.

In his transformation from Miranda to Maledicte, Maledicte befriends Vornatti's manservant Gilly. It's that friendship that, at the story's climax, saves Miranda/Maledicte from becoming Ani's unthinking puppet and allows her to abandon Janus.

Which brings us to Janus - a more unlikeable, vicious and amoral creep is hard to imagine but Robins is good in making us believe that Miranda could have fallen in love with him during their lives in the slums, and understanding why she sticks by him as long as she does.

I also like Robins' economical writing style. The book is not bogged down with pages and pages of pointless exposition. Exempla gratia: Maledicte's 2 years of training under Vornatti is dispensed with in a paragraph. Thankfully. And we see only enough of Miranda's former life to understand why she is the person she is.

This is not a perfect novel by any means (particularly if you prefer your heroes a bit less bloody minded) but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.