Chasing a Legacy by D.A. Ravenscroft

The cover of "Chasing a Legacy" by D.A. Ravenscroft. A young blond woman in a green 19th century dress stands against a railing, she is holding a locket in her hands.

The snapchat caption reads: More incredibly sexy queer historical fiction.

“Chasing a Legacy” comes as a sequel to “Chasing a Ghost,” which is itself an unofficial sequel to Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables that reimagines the character Enjolras as a gay transgender man. “Chasing a Legacy,” unlike its predecessor, is much less unofficial sequel and much more original fiction. The few characters from Les Miserables remain, Grantaire, Combeferre, Courfeyrac, Marius, but the vast majority of the cast are new, original characters, in large part the children of the aforementioned  Les Mis characters who were first introduced as children in “Chasing a Ghost.” 

The central two characters are Marianne and Camille, the two remaining children of Enjolras and Grantaire. Both queer in some respect, Marianne has made a name for herself as a bohemian and courtesan and Camille followed in his father’s footsteps to become a lawyer. Marianne has tried desperately to be nothing like Enjolras, who she feels abandoned her, and Camille has done his utmost to emulate him while simultaneously blaming himself for his father’s death. The plot takes them through a complicated mess of political and social maneuvering and drama against a backdrop of complex familial trauma and present day trauma.

Quote from "Chasing a Legacy": Chapter 1, title, The price of a single shot may be a coat or a man

Paris, Francis, 1966

First line of the first chapter: "Slow your breathing. Do not show fear. Be like Father."

The complexity and messiness of the relationships in the book is indescribably good. They feel realistic and raw and they are so well constructed as they change and evolve that you truly feel the catharsis at the end.

"Chasing a Legacy" quote: "You don't need to be him, Marianne;  that's something I wish your brother would understand," Grantaire said. "You don't have to  make the  same mistakes he did. But do not deny parts of yourself because you resent him. Please." That same tender hand that had touched her face found her shoulder, clasping it firmly. "Take what he gave you - and do better."

Snapchat caption: The way this book  handles  complicated parental relationships is exquisite.

This feeling of catharsis at the end is added to by the fact that there a lot of very heavy subject matter in “Chasing a Legacy” that is handled very well. Sexual assault is a big player in the criminal side of the plot and PTSD is another large theme, but the trauma is handled tactfully and respectfully, and any ableist, misogynistic, or victim blaming language is both incredibly limited in usage and the narrative punishes those who use it very effectively. By the end, the relief and catharsis of justice done is palpable, though it’s hardly an easy road.

"Chasing a Legacy" quote: "If a fox gets caught in a trap it is not a failure on the fox's part," Elodie said. "It is the doing of whoever set down the snare. My brother is charming and clever, Nothing of this is your fault." 

Snapchat caption: Ugh this is such a good metaphor.

I will note, that while none of the traumatic events are explicitly shown, they are discussed in quite a condensed and rather intense way in a trial toward the end. If you have trouble with this sort of thing, I would recommend perhaps skipping over Marianne’s trial, (Camille’s, which takes place first, is a laugh riot), or reading slowly and in increments. There is a full list of potential triggers in the back of the book. 

It has been a long time since I have been so utterly hooked by a plot. “Chasing a Legacy” is over 700 pages and I found it nearly impossible to put down. I read the book in its entirety in two solid three-hour stints. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a complicated and extensive plot unravel so perfectly. I hardly know what I can say about it for fear of ruining the mystery! I’ll leave it at this, D. A. Ravenscroft has done what many a creative writing major, myself included, dreams of, writing the perfect multi-protagonist novel without the story being overwhelmed by one character or another. It is beautifully balanced and the plot has been interwoven exquisitely.

 Some other things that were done phenomenally well: 

1. I know I mentioned PTSD before, but I really cannot stress how well this was managed. We saw different manifestations of PTSD, sympathetic responses from medical professionals, period appropriate treatments that were good and effective.

2. Camille is autistic! Now the language surrounding this obviously not modern day language, but the indicators are there if you know what to look for. Camille is overwhelmed (overstimulated) by the ringing of the bells of Notre Dame. Has a particular coat (a plot important coat) that is just the perfect texture and feeling that it’s irreplaceable. 

Quote from "Chasing a Legacy": "He would mourn this coat - it had been his favourite, handsome and well-fitted with an inoffensive texture..."

The snapchat caption reads: My autistic son!

3. We get a major endgame mlm and wlw relationship with Fabien and Camille and Marianne and Elodie. You don’t have choose if you want to read a book about one or the other cause this book gives you both.

4. Fabien, love of my life, Camille’s love interest, is a trans man and Jewish, and his Jewishness isn’t a one off passing mention either. Although Fabien is a secondary character, he is an important one and we are afforded a look into his family life, his community and by the end…… stop reading if you don’t want a spoiler…… 

Camille converts to Judaism over the course of their relationship. We don’t see this, but it is explicitly stated in the epilogue. I just about screamed. 

This beautiful beautiful book with it’s beautiful beautiful cover art, can be found here, in several different editions: A two volume paperback, a two volume hardback, a single volume, brick-sized paperback, and an ebook.

If you enjoy my content, please consider buying be a Kofi or supporting me on Patreon!

Chasing a Ghost by D.A. Ravenscroft

Cover of hardback version of "Chasing a Ghost"
Caption: Les Mis fan fiction you say? No, no, this is an Unauthorized Sequel.

“Chasing a Ghost” is an unauthorized sequel to Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables,” however, ultimately, no prior knowledge of “Les Miserables” is required for full enjoyment of “Chasing a Ghost.” Where “Chasing a Ghost” succeeds that some other published fanfiction does not, is that it can hold its own as a standalone historical fiction novel as well. 

And speaking of historical fiction, “Chasing a Ghost” has been impeccably researched. As someone with a passion for medical historical, all the historical medical tidbits are just excellent. My particular favorite is the early 19th century blood transfusion. It’s nothing graphic, but it’s fascinating and a real thing that existed at the time.

Now to plot. “Chasing a Ghost” picks up eight years after “Les Miserables” leaves off. We have some survivors of the barricades that don’t survive in the original text, namely, Enjolras, Grantaire, Combeferre and Courfeyrac, but if you haven’t read “Les Miserables” this means nothing to you.

Enjolras, the primary protagonist, has survived the June Rebellion of 1832, and is now living in a small town outside of Paris with his husband, Grantaire and two children, before an old friend comes calling and it leads Enjolras back to Paris and politics and perhaps another revolution. You did read that right, I said his husband in the same sentence as 1832. One of the biggest changes from the source material sees Enjolras as a trans man in a confirmed same sex relationship. 

This was ultimately one of the things that first drew me to the fanfiction on Archive of Our Own before it was published as a stand alone novel. Enjolras was a trans man who had a family and gave birth to his own children. That’s not a demographic of trans man you see frequently in the media and as a trans man who would like to have his own family one day, I couldn’t not read this. 

The author himself is also a trans man who has had a child with his husband, and the care and accuracy with which he portrays Enjolras as trans is a breath of fresh air in a sea of trans fiction written by cis people. The knowledge that Enjolras is trans is ever present in how he navigates his life, as it has been for trans people throughout history up to the present day, but it’s not the big hardship of the story. The more pressing hardships include, marital strife, dangerous political situations and another impending rebellion, among others.  

The more thing I want to discuss with “Chasing a Ghost” is the use of foreshadowing and Chekhov’s gun. As someone who came into the novel have already read the fanfiction and watching the author discuss the changes to the story they were making on their blog, I immediately knew the foreshadowing and I have to say knowing  it was in no way lessened my enjoyment of the story. I don’t want to spoil by saying too much, but I will say in this case Chekov’s gun is in fact a gun.

Snapchat image of book.
Book text: He felt shrapnel cut across his shoulders, tearing his coat, and then  a loud crack split the air close to his ear as Camille, blinded by panic, discharged Enjolras' flintlock into the smoke.
Caption: The gun in the first act must go off in the second.

Finally I want to mention a few content warnings:
1. difficult childbirth (where the blood transfusion happens)
2. child death
3. physician assisted suicide
4. alcoholism

The book can be found here, as an ebook, paperback and hardback.

Related Reviews: Dreadnought, Before the City Rises (18+)

If you enjoy my content, please consider buying be a Kofi or supporting me on Patreon.