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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)

 

 

 

 

 

Alayna Cole

Alayna Cole loves to write stories when she’s not studying for her Bachelor of Education/Bachelor of Arts.

Shovel Ready – a thrilling novel by Adam Sternbergh – follows the story of a garbageman turned hitman who agrees to a new job and is met with an unexpected series of ethical dilemmas and more responsibilities than he bargained for.

The novel is set in dystopian New York after it was ravaged by a short series of events that ultimately led to its demise. The setting is artfully constructed, littered with symbolic subtleties and just enough realism for it to be frightening. Compared to the extreme weather events and natural disasters that are often to blame for comparable settings, the causes of this dystopia are strangely anti-climactic, but this is by no means a criticism. What happens to Times Square, and subsequently the rest of New York, is alarmingly plausible and the knowledge that humans are entirely capable of initiating a similar domino effect is enthralling.

While exploring these ideas of man-made dystopia through action sequences, Sternbergh also examines how dystopia can be forged by inaction. ‘Tapping in’ – the act of escaping to a dream world through the use of a ‘bed’ and the aid of modern technology – provides a perfect constructed life for any residents of New York who can afford the privilege. The addiction to technology that this propagates is depicted as inherently problematic and acts as a clever comment on the increasing reliance on other facets of technology, such as the internet and smart phones. This social commentary is reminiscent of how the popularisation of visual media, such as television, was criticised in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

The protagonist and anti-hero of Shovel Ready – who is known only as Spademan – is remarkably multi-faceted. Sternbergh does an incredible job of constructing a character who is both likeable and unlikeable, and to whom readers can relate. Spademan may be a hitman, but he is not simply a weapon lacking dimension; as much as he enjoys claiming to be only a disinterested, amoral bullet, he is still characterised by a layered backstory that has notable impacts on his personality traits. Clever foreshadowing ensures that, as Spademan’s story is revealed, memories and flashbacks are simultaneously surprising and believable.

Sentences are sharp and punctuation is used sparingly, with quotation marks neglected altogether. The lack of attribution in scenes featuring heavy dialogue leads to occasional confusion as to who is speaking, but this deliberate stylistic choice is effective in making the prose appear as sparse as the setting. The minimalist writing style is symbolic of the luxuries the novel’s characters are unable to afford and resembles the narration of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, in which comparable stylistic choices achieve a similar effect.

The narrator’s unique voice is witty and punchy and gives even more life to Spademan’s fascinating character. This narrator evokes a range of emotions – from hilarity to melancholy, from rage to curiosity – with each turn of the page. This novel is engaging and the ideas continue to be captivating days after it ends.

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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