Joelene Pynnonen

Verity Fassbinder might have gone up against Archangels and Weyrd murderers before, but now she’s on a course that might just see her out of her depth – motherhood.

When Verity falls pregnant, she’s quite content to take things easy for a while, especially after the last few scrapes that she barely escaped. Spending more time with David and sorting through the piles of baby clothes are her priorities. But something out there has other plans for her and, with her super-strength depleted, Verity is in for the fight of her life.

The first Verity Fassbinder novel, Vigil, is a hard act to follow. The sleepy Brisbane setting with a supernatural underbelly is something that I wouldn’t believe could be pulled off if I hadn’t read it. The epic scale of the story seems suited to a more glamourous city, but Slatter’s Brisbane steps up to the plate marvellously. In Slatter’s hands Brisbane retains the essence that its residents love, but also becomes something more in the process. Needless to say, when I picked up Corpselight – at the official launch because I was not waiting longer than necessary for it – I expected great things.

And let me tell you how Corpselight delivers.

Pregnancy and motherhood aren’t things that crop up regularly in the urban fantasy novels that I read. To be honest, they’re not the sorts of things I’d seek out, but Slatter handles both well. Verity might be a no nonsense, hardened investigator used to toughing out difficult situations, but she’s also very human. She gets tired and cranky and emotional, and having a baby brings all of these things to the forefront. It’s also really interesting to see how Verity handles motherhood. Her portrayal in Corpselight is much more realistic than many fictional maternal portrayals. Despite having a baby to worry about, she’s still very much her own person. While she takes extra precautions, she’s not ready to give up her life to be a mother.

Corpselight is darker than Vigil. Not that Vigil was particularly light, but Verity had less to lose in Vigil. In Corpselight the stakes spike like crazy. There are more nuances now that we’re firmly set in this world. Everything is more complex; emotions, relationships, the enemy, family and friends. Verity’s comparative youth becomes a more important factor in this novel; setting her apart from those who have lived through far crueller regimes. It also becomes apparent that a lot of the complexities of the world are lost on Verity because she is too young to have experienced the things her friends have.

The wonderful magical elements are explored more fully in Corpselight. From the magics that Normals can conduct to those that need a Weyrd to power them. Many of the rituals are reminiscent of old faerie lore, and it adds a hefty dose of authenticity.

The ending of Corpselight, while not exactly a cliff-hanger, works brilliantly to set up an even more dynamic situation in the third book, Restoration. And since it’s not out until August 2018, I’m going to have to find something else to fill that void in the meantime.

Corpselight – Angela Slatter

Jo Fletcher Books (July 13, 2017)

ISBN: 9781784294342

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.

kimberley-rat-city-cover-600wShannon Dane has tried to keep a low profile ever since his best friend died in an incident that Shannon might have prevented. When a gorgeous girl (Ally) from school approaches, asking him to give her brother a textbook, Shannon changes his mind about staying off the radar. At first he might only be hanging out with Felix to be closer to his hot sister, but things change.

Felix is a nerd and oddly emotional at times – as well as having weird hoarding tendencies – but he’s also loyal, insanely clever and interesting. Ally isn’t just gorgeous; she’s adventurous, astute and self-possessed. Best of all, neither Felix or Ally have any interest in the rumours surrounding the fate of Shannon’s dead best friend.

They have enough problems of their own. As Shannon moves further into their world, he begins to realise that they’ve got things going on that make his problems look tame. And Ally is afraid that if they don’t tackle the “issue”, it will grow into something that none of them can control.

Rat City is the debut Young Adult novel of Brisbane author, Ree Kimberley. As always, it’s lovely to read a local author. While Rat City isn’t specifically set in Brisbane, the novel does have a familiar Australian feel in the way characters speak and their interactions.

The novel plays with quite a few genres, most notably horror, sci-fi, romance and mystery. For me, the mystery side was a little lacking but the sci-fi and romance plot-lines are solid. It’s refreshing that Shannon doesn’t immediately drop everything to please Ally. That when she starts seriously considering breaking the law, he’s not willing to go along with it.

In the novel, Rat City is what Ally and Felix call their uncle’s dilapidated, rat-infested mansion. Considering the book title and the way the characters talk about the place, I was expecting that when the place made a proper appearance in the novel, it would be overwhelming. The atmospheric build up to Shannon’s foray into Rat City is done well. It makes the place seem dark and threatening. Not much of the novel takes place in Rat City though, and I think that this is quite a missed opportunity.

I adore rats, so the fact that the plot revolves around their intellect and resilience is a highlight. Their behavioural quirks are only touched on in Rat City, so hopefully it’s something that will be further explored in future novels.

While this is a Young Adult read, it’s certainly suitable for more advanced middle grade readers. It leaves the door wide open for a sequel, but doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger. With the crossed genres, this is sure to appeal to a wide variety of readers, so anyone looking for a new series should give this a go.

 

Rat City – Ree Kimberley

Pronoun Books (2016)

ISBN: 9780995387003

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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