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Vigil Paperback – July 7, 2016
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Top Customer Reviews
Slatter excels at creating relatable and complex main characters that feel real enough that they might step off the page. She does that in this book too with Verity Fassbinder: a woman haunted by her past (her father was a less than savoury character to say the least), with a sometimes cranky disposition (who can blame her, what with all the shape-shifting, magic-wielding nutcases he has to deal with), and a sharp tongue that occasionally…OK, often, gets her into trouble. All of that makes her a wonderful protagonist.
The fantasy element of the story is strong, intertwining creatures of myth, legend, and fairytales, all of them living just beneath the surface, or on the margins of “normal” society in Brisbane. I really loved how Slatter puts her own spin on many of the Weyrd: sirens, the boatsman, norns… they are all just a bit different than what you might expect. (Some of them run great coffee shops, for example!) The story is dark and suspenseful: several passages had me on the edge of my seat, and other passages are hauntingly creepy; but Slatter’s (and Verity’s) sense of humour and humanity give the story a lot of heart, too.
Even though I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Urban Fantasy, I keep encountering books in that genre which I really enjoy. This is one of them. I tried it on the strength of really loving her 2015 novella Of Sorrow and Such, and I was glad that I did. It’s a detective murder mystery featuring a flawed but likeable protagonist, with bonus fantasy worldbuilding – and if you think that might appeal, I strongly recommend this. The sequel, Corpselight, comes out in July 2017, and I will definitely be picking it up.
This novel was sent to me by the publisher, as an uncorrected bound proof. Also, I had the enormous privilege of reading it in draft form, which I just can’t tell you how awesome that was. I have re-read it now partly because I have a bad memory and I knew the details had escaped me but that I loved it; partly because it’s Angela Slatter and she always withstands re-reading; and partly because it was sent as a review copy, so of course I had to. It was mostly the first two, though.
Verity Fassbinder “has her feet in two worlds” – that of the Normal, where there is definitely no magic and the only things that go bump in the night are trees in the wind and possums in the bins, and that of the Weyrd. With the Weyrd, things going bump in the night may well be very old, very cranky, and very powerful. Also, weird. Her father was Weyrd; he could change shape and he was a criminal, against both Normal laws and Weyrd customs.
Verity is a wonderfully attractive heroine. She inherited strength from her father but violence is not (always) her first recourse in a dangerous situation; she’s got a pretty short temper and little patience with bureaucracy and authority; she’s a fierce friend and protector of her neighbours, single mum Mel and daughter Lizzie; she lives in a clapped-out old house in Brisbane’s suburbs. She has little interest in fashion, she’s stubborn and determined, she’s willing to compromise and admit when she’s wrong. Basically she’s human, with flaws and problems and the sorts of characteristics I would absolutely love in a friend.
Slatter’s plot is not at all straightforward. She starts with the scenario from “Brisneyland” – children going missing – and builds layer upon layer of Weyrd problems that may or may not be connected. The death of a siren (hence the cover image), the disappearance of a young man, possibly random other deaths – all of which Fassbinder must solve, with varying levels of help and hindrance from a range of friends, acquaintances, enemies and bystanders. It’s a detective story with paranormal elements, and while that’s not a unique proposition it’s the setting and the side characters (and of course Verity herself) that make this wonderful.
Brisbane is by no means a fast-paced city. Slatter has jokes about the places that do or do not get flooded; there’s jokes and having to eat out before 8.30pm; there’s a distinctly slow-paced, I guess Australian feel to the whole situation. Moving this to an American city would make it very different, and lose a lot of its charm; I hope that translates to non-Australian readers.
Verity is aided by Ziggi, driving an entirely disreputable taxi and watching her with his third eye; she’s employed, kind of, by a Weyrd ex-boyfriend, Bela, who has some hidden depths and unexpected shallows. She’s helped and hindered in sometimes equal proportions by the Norn sisters – home of an addictive caramel marshmallow log that I wonder whether Slatter has actually made – and has all-too-frequent dealings with (Normal) Detective Inspector McIntyre, who may very well be my favourite of all the side characters (sorry Ziggi) for her ‘whisky-and-cigarettes voice’ and her even lower interest in putting on a good appearance than Verity. I really hope she continues to turn up throughout the series. I would swap her for Bela any day.
Vigil is fast-paced, quirky, full of twists, and thoroughly grounded in Brisbane (even if it is a somewhat imaginary Brisbane) and the reality of immigrant Australia. I love it and I want more Verity.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Vigil is an interesting book; part urban fantasy and part detective fiction, set on the dark...Read more
I know, because I had the same thoughts prior to reading this book.Read more