Joelene Pynnonen

On Monday night, Avid Reader bookstore in West End held its monthly Science Fiction and Fantasy Bookclub. Fittingly, July’s book is set in Brisbane, with a several major events happening in the heart of West End. Vigil is the first book in Angela Slatter’s Verity Fassbinder series. If you haven’t heard of this series yet, take a look at my review of the first novel – linked below. If, on the other hand, you’ve already read the epic first novel, book two, Corpselight, is in stores now.

Hosted by renowned speculative fiction author, Trent Jamieson, the Avid Reader SF&F Bookclub is held on the last Monday of each month. I’ve been meaning to get to one for some time now, but have been hampered by work, life and everything in between. Monday night was an insight into how much I’m missing out. I was lucky enough to start my bookclub experience with the author present, which gave a whole new perspective on the series. With a couple of bottles of wine and an intelligent circle of readers, we delved into the intricacies of Verity Fassbinder’s Brisbane.

Trent Jamieson is a wonderful and organised host. He had done enough research to know about Angela Slatter’s myriad of awards, but was shrewd enough to stop listing them all before the dawn. Instead, we acknowledged that Angela Slatter’s shelves are more likely to bow under the weight of literary appreciation than the weight of her books, and moved on.

Important questions were asked. Like, ‘Where can we obtain our own personal David?’ Answers to that question, sadly, were not forthcoming and we had to resign ourselves to David-less lives.

For anyone wondering whether the Brisneyland setting was always meant to be, the answer is yes. Before Vigil fledged into a novel, Brisbane was a part of it. In the final version, Brisbane is the lifeblood of Vigil, a character that acts as glue for all other characters. And, for fast readers, the big question of the night was when the third book, Restoration, would be out. Mid-2018, guys. We’re going to have to find another series to tide us over.

Vigil is a wonderful and highly imaginative urban fantasy novel that sweeps a reader along on an epic adventure. Sometimes when caught up in that rush of a fantastical novel, it’s difficult to think of the process it took to become the final polished product in your hands. Talking with Angela Slatter about this process both disabuses and reaffirms this idea.

On one hand, you can see the depth of thought that has gone on behind the scenes. Especially in working with an understanding of cultural appropriation. Vigil may be wholly Australian, but Slatter makes it clear that she doesn’t consider Indigenous stories hers to tell. There’s also the difficulty of working in a supportive love interest who doesn’t take over the story but isn’t a damsel-in-distress trope either.

But then, on the other hand, there’s that aspect that’s just the magical way synapses fire up on new ideas, catching and holding them until a story demands them. Discovering that a person believes that a glass of water under the bed will snatch away nightmares might fuel a story for Slatter. A name on a headstone – imaginary at that – might spark the heart of an entire collection of short stories.

Corpselight was already the next book on my reading list, but with the fascinating tidbits I found out at bookclub, I’m that much more anxious to get to it.

Review: Vigil by Angela Slatter


Joelene Pynnonen

Joelene Pynnonen embraces the life of an avid book lover in every way. Her household is ruled cruelly by a wrathful cat; and should a fire ever start it is doubtful that she would make it past the elegant stacks of novels to her room door. At least once a year she coerces her mother into watching the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice with her, and will often follow up by re-reading the book.

slatter-vigilHuman children are going missing around the city. The Weyrd population is worried that another paranormal butcher might be at work and history might be repeating. Verity Fassbinder is determined to find whoever is behind the disappearances. Years earlier her father had been discovered carving local children as delicacies for those who had not grown out of the taste of flesh. Some of his clients are bound to still be around and if they are sourcing human meat from a new butcher, they need to be found before they expose the Weyrd community to the world.

On top of that, the mangled bodies of Sirens are falling from the sky; some strange new beast is decimating civilians – Weyrd and human alike – and it looks as though a plot against the rulers of the Weyrd world is in play.

Vigil is Angela Slatter’s first novel. Set in Brisbane, it follows Verity Fassbinder, a woman whose life has been a study in balancing her right to autonomy against her self-appointed vigil for her city. It’s rare that I manage to find an urban fantasy set in my home city, let alone one as compelling as this.

Being more interested in the story than the packaging, I rarely comment on cover art, but here I’ll make an exception. The cover of Vigil is one of the most stunning pieces that I’ve seen in years. Even if I were not already a fan of Slatter’s work, I would have looked into this novel. It suits the story as well; atmospheric, dark and lovely.

I’ve loved several of Slatter’s books of short stories, and was delighted when I found out that she had a novel coming out. Her writing style is unlike anything that I have come across before. She has a deft way with words that makes each line, paragraph and scene she writes say so much more than any other writer I’ve read. This writing style is echoed in Vigil, but the novel is very different to her other works.

The mythology in Vigil is beautiful. It may touch on Greek, Roman, Biblical and other myths, but Slatter has re-imagined the old tales in entirely new ways and then laid them over the glass, concrete, and metal fabric that is Brisbane. In many ways, it has the feel of a modern tale from the brothers Grimm, but one that is more concerned with character than with plot.

Which isn’t to say that the plot is inadequate. If anything the plot is too epic for our sleepy city. It’s the sort of storyline that belongs somewhere far more ancient and cultured. In this newly imagined Brisbane, however, it fits.

The characters are simply more gripping than the plot for a myriad of reasons. While they don’t all have tightly woven relationships, they do slot together in their own ways as neatly as a jigsaw. The interactions are natural and immensely readable. The motivations, too. Verity’s guilt for the actions of her father and her need to work at protecting the city even at risk to her own life makes her story an absorbing one.

This is a wonderful start to a new series. With richly imagined characters, setting and mythology, it is the perfect read for those who enjoy urban fantasy.


Vigil – Angela Slatter

Jo Fletcher Books (July 7, 2016)

ISBN: 9781784294021

Joelene Pynnonen

Joelene Pynnonen embraces the life of an avid book lover in every way. Her household is ruled cruelly by a wrathful cat; and should a fire ever start it is doubtful that she would make it past the elegant stacks of novels to her room door. At least once a year she coerces her mother into watching the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice with her, and will often follow up by re-reading the book.


Maleficent_posterThere were a plethora of amazing panels featuring authors from around the globe at Brisbane Writers Festival 2015. True to my bad work-schedule-luck, the final day was the only day that I was able to see any of them.

It turns out that that was all sorts of okay because on Sunday there was a panel called Ancient Myths, Modern Tales.

Reimagined myths and folklore have always been popular but more and more people seem to breathing new life into the old stories. This year alone I have read books strongly inspired by Irish myth, the tale of Scheherazade, Briar Rose, Greek mythology, faerie folklore, and Christian mythology. The popularity of shows like Once Upon a Time and Grimm, and films like Maleficent, Cinderella and Snow White and the Huntsman make it clear that our collective imagination has locked on to these mythic and folkloric tales. On the Ancient Myths, Modern Tales panel, three writers discuss why this might be, and how the old stories contribute to their own writing.

The panel was moderated by the remarkable Angela Slatter, a Brisbane author who is no stranger to the folkloric tales and makes fantastic use of elements of them in her short story collections Sourdough and Other Stories and Bitterwood Bible. It was a disappointment that Angela herself wasn’t discussing the impact of ancient myths on current tales as her books are richly inspired by lore while retaining their own distinct essence. As a moderator, however, she could not be faulted. Her questions were thoughtful and precise, generating some enthralling discussion.

The authors on the panel, Holly Black, Kelly Link, and Sjón, all had fascinating ideas about how and why the epic myths have stayed with us as a society for so long; and each of them had some lesser known bits of lore or mythology to share.

Each had their own views on the topics touched on, but there were a few points that everyone agreed on. The biggest of these is that the old tales are being retold in every story, movie or show created. When the hero seems to die in action movies and is revived by someone mourning them, we accept this because we are conditioned to accept that the kiss of true love restores life. The myths are fused so closely to current tales that it’s easy for writers to dip into them for inspiration without even realising it.

Even further than that, though, is the idea that the reason myths and lore keep showing up in current creative trends is that they are based on reality and reality has not much changed from the time of those tales. The ancient Greeks would build shrines in the hopes of pacifying Poseidon and now, almost 3000 years later, we are still at the mercy of the ocean whether it means from tsunami or from the rising sea levels. The tale of Hansel and Gretel was based off times of hardship when there was no food for the parents let alone children. While this is not a problem the western world is facing, it is still a major issue facing so many people in the world. The myths and legends tapped into real issues people faced, and there are echoes of that in our stories as the major issues have not faded.

It is evident from so many of the books and films emerging that the tales that regaled our ancestors still hold power over us. Ancient Myths, Modern Tales gave me some insight as to why, as well as a few new myths to think about.


davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 





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