Mandy Wrangles

Amanda Wrangles is a Victorian based writer and previous Scarlett Stiletto winner.

anderton_Guardian-coverI was thrilled to learn FableCroft Publishing had picked up Book Three in Jo Anderton’s Veiled World Trilogy – Guardian.

I’d already read and loved books one and two– Debris and Suitedand was really looking forward to finding out how Anderton would manage to tie up such a complex storyline. But before I begin, a little disclaimer–I’m intentionally vague with this review. Being the last in the series, it’s all too easy to drop spoiler-bombs for the first two books, and these stories are far too good for that.

The Veiled World trilogy is big. I don’t necessarily mean in page numbers (though they’re all decent sized books, just not door-stops), I mean in the sheer scope of story. I’ve mentioned before that Anderton is a master world-builder, and she well and truly proves it here in the final instalment when protagonist Tanyana begins to slide across the veils–or through the doors–to even more worlds: worlds that are still connected to the one she shares in Movac-under-Keeper with Kichlan and her Debris collection team–Tanyana’s home.

As with Suited, Jo Anderton kicks this novel off with a deft recap of the last book. Rather than a “Previously…in The Veiled Worlds” type of summary, she manages to give the reader swift and unique catch-up by means of a report from a character whose thoughts we don’t usually get much of. Not only is this a clever tool to jog the reader’s memory, but it places the story smack into what we once believed was nothing more than the mythology of the Veiled Worlds.

In my review of Suited, I wrote about the fantastic character development from book one to two. So many novels with complex world building drop the ball when it comes to giving the reader characters they can really care about. Anderton has again pushed further than I expected. I felt comfortable with both Tanyana and her supporting cast–maybe too comfortable–and loved the way I was propelled forward alongside the characters as they were forced to keep moving, keep fighting, with little more than hope to keep them going. The Veiled World trilogy is written at a frantic pace, and the character development keeps up with the plot. These are people who can’t be unchanged for what they have seen and endured, both mentally and physically (oh, the physical!) Even after a long break between reading books two and three, I slipped straight back into an emotional investment in Tanyana and…and I’m so not going to say who else (I did say no spoilers).

Tanyana herself undergoes the biggest changes, and it is her strength and growth of character that impressed me most. Over the course of three books, she has grown from a talented and privileged member of society (though maybe a little too privileged?), to scraping the bottom of that same culture, to becoming the strong and deserving champion.

I felt Guardian was more science fiction than fantasy, and definitely more cyber than anything else. This is a little change from the first two books, though the mythological elements still hold this story together at the end of the day. Jo Anderton slips the reader information like jellybeans (or Lindt chocolate–whichever is your poison), only the smallest morsel at a time, which makes it hard for the type of reader who likes to problem solve ahead of time. I found the author to have great control over what she wanted us to know and when we could know it.

My single frustration with Guardian was with the evil Puppet Men. As antagonists, I found them to be a little too nebulous–though that could well have been Anderton’s intention, as I’m sure Tanyana felt the same.

There’s tragedy, relief, and still plenty of ‘a-ha!’ moments. I’ll give fair warning…there will be tears, so have the tissues handy. After three books, it’s impossible not to lose it a little when a story like this comes to an end. For this reason, even though Guardian could possibly be read as a stand-alone novel, to get the most from it, I recommend reading Debris and Suited first if you haven’t already done so.

 

Guardian

Book Three of the Veiled Worlds Trilogy

By Jo Anderton

Fablecroft Publishing 2014

ISBN – Print: 9780992284442 (RRP: $16.99)

ISBN – ebook: 9780992284459 (RRP: $7.99)

 

 

 

 

 

Reviewed by Mandy Wrangles

SUITED is book two in Jo Anderton’s The Veiled Worlds trilogy and is the follow-up to Debris.

“The bitter war between the sinister Puppet Men and the nebulous Keeper for the control of the ancient city of Movoc-under-Keeper has intensified. For Tanyana, imprisoned within her extraordinary suit and cast down as a lowly debris collector, choosing a side should be simple. But when even her own suit becomes aggressive against her, Tanyana must weigh some very personal issues against her determination to serve the greater good.”

Suited picks up just after Debris left off – a handy little recap of book one in the form of conversation between two experimenting Puppet Men gives the reader an excellent grounding to where the situation now lies. I, for one found this particularly helpful; Anderton has built an extremely complex world with multiple characters, and this Analysis Of Past Events is a clever way of reminding the reader where the story is at. It also gives us a chance to settle in to a world literally made and held together by pions before chapter one – when wham! the action hits hard and fast.

As with Debris (you can read my review here), Anderton expects the reader to keep up – although she writes a rich, layered world, there’s no mucking around with over-explained or too-luscious details. Instead, we’re thrown into the deep end of world that sits somewhere between fantasy and science fiction, dotted with steampunk elements. In book one, it was the world-building that really blew me away. Suited capitalises on Jo Anderton’s talent here, but with more detail in passing. We’re privy to more history, politics and mythology than last time – but only as protagonist Tanyana herself finds this information.

The biggest difference with Suited – and where it really comes into its own – is the character development.

Tanyana Vladha spent much of Debris bound up in her own search for why and who made her fall from grace, both literally and figuratively. She has lost any trace of being a victim (though Tan didn’t exactly play that part as well as the Puppet Men would have liked her to…) and is now taking far more action regarding her situation. Tanyana was never a passive character, but in Suited, she is no longer helpless, beginning to take control of both the mysterious metallic suit that is now part of her and her own destiny. There is more at stake in Suited – it’s not just about Tanyana, but about the survival of their world and the people she cares about. Tan is more empathetic; her relationships with her debris collecting team have grown along with her own sense of belonging. Her romantic relationship with Kichlan is never ‘icky’ or out of place and helps to move the plot along. Kichlan’s brother Lad is still the most interesting character of this series next to Tanyana, even with the introduction of a whole bucket-load of new personalities. The intrigue and mythology surrounding the Keeper himself made a lot more sense, and I found myself having plenty of ‘a-ha!’ moments.

My only disappointment with Suited came in the form of the deception – after the betrayal in Debris, this one was a little too easy to see coming, however it didn’t detract from the storyline itself. I found it to be more of a case of wanting to scream at Tanyana and her friends to watch their backs, look over their shoulders.

Suited is a more emotional book than Debris. I’m not sure if that’s because as a reader I’ve come to know and love this cast of characters more, or if Anderton has set out to deliberately push buttons, to make us care about their fates and the world of Movoc-under-Keeper. There were places where I had to catch my breath with the simple (but oh, so well done) horror of a single moment: ‘…The debris came away from her body. Most of her stomach came with it…’ and then there were the moments where I had to stop and reach for the tissues. Seriously. Suited doesn’t suffer from Flat Middle Book Syndrome – while it can’t stand alone without Debris, it moves the overall arc of the trilogy along at a great pace. If you enjoyed Debris and haven’t yet got your hands on Suited – what are you waiting for?

Published by Angry Robot

ISBN – 978-0-85766-157-9

Paperback – 458 pages

Also available as an ebook via www.angryrobotbooks.com

Reviewed by Mandy Wrangles

Tanyana is special. Her career as an architect – a pionner – makes her one of the most highly regarded people in society.  By manipulating pions, the particles that hold all matter together through a blend of ritual and innate talent, Tanyana and her team are working on a giant construction; a prestigious statue named Grandeur in the city of Movac-Under-Keeper. And then something goes wrong. Tanyana is left injured, humiliated and without the ability to see or manipulate pions. She is cast into a world quite the opposite to what she knows – that of a lowly Debris collector.

Tanyana is denied justice at every turn. No one wants to know or listen to her; no one wants to be the one to help her find who – or what – caused her fall from grace. Her critical circle, the nine skilled binders who worked below and in harmony with Tanyana have abandoned her, and sinister undercurrents sweep and still her every movement.  Money ebbs from her bank account, the mysterious collection suit (and its creator) she finds is now part of her physical being is without explanation or an instruction booklet. Blank-faced ‘Puppet Men’ are watching, but no one can tell her why, or who they are. Not only is she is shunned by the society she once knew, she’s not exactly accepted with open arms by the debris crew she’s allocated to. Tanyana is alone, lost and powerless.

Debris collectors are the lowest of the low in the country of Varsnia, but without them, debris – the waste product left behind by pions – threatens to cause some serious damage. It’s when Tanyana finds her feet as a collector that this story really amped up for me. The relationships between the collection team are cautious and real, they trust each other but are innately suspicious of Tanyana – she represents everything they’re not. Each team member is drawn extremely well, and it’s easy to care about them very quickly, particularly the mystifying and childish Lad. The relationship Lad has with his brother Kichlan is an especially beautiful and intriguing bond; one that I’m looking forward to learning more about.

Debris is an exceptional novel. I have to admit, it’s taken me a long time since I finished reading to write this review. There are so many layers (yep,
just like an onion only tastier) I wasn’t sure where to begin. The physical aspect of Tanyana’s fall is the tip of the iceberg; Anderton’s observations of society and class system – and then the layers within that system – are written in a way that stays with you long after the story is finished. This is a story that sits somewhere in between fantasy and science fiction with a good dose of steampunk thrown in, but the themes covered and revelations about humanity are decidedly real. I’m a huge fan of a well-built world, and Debris ticks every box. The reader is treated intelligently, there are no over explanations to the workings of this world, just enough to keep you questioning and looking for the drip-fed answers while the action moves at a fast pace around you.

Debris is the first novel from Australian Jo Anderton, but not her first published work; she has a serious sackful of short fiction credits to her name. I for one will be sourcing those short stories to tide me over until the next instalment in The Veiled Worlds (Suited), is available later this year. I can’t wait to see what else Anderton’s  remarkable imagination has dreamed up.

 

Debris by Jo Anderton

Published by Angry Robot

Paperback – 408 pages

ISBN – 978-0-85766-153-1

 

Awards

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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