Published: 12th July 2016
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books/ Hachette Australia
Format: Paperback courtesy of the Publisher
From award-winning author Angela Slatter comes her first full length novel, VIGIL, where the normal and the ‘weyrd’ combine on the streets of Brisbane.
Verity Fassbinder has her feet in two worlds. The daughter of one human and one Weyrd parent, she has very little power herself, but does claim unusual strength – and the ability to walk between us and the other – as a couple of her talents. As such a rarity, she is charged with keeping the peace between both races, and ensuring the Weyrd remain hidden from us.
But now Sirens are dying, illegal wine made from the tears of human children is for sale – and in the hands of those Weyrd who hold with the old ways – and someone has released an unknown and terrifyingly destructive force on the streets of Brisbane.
And Verity must investigate – or risk ancient forces carving our world apart.
Vigil is the first book in the Verity Fassbinder fantasy series by Australian author Angela Slatter.
Simply put, Vigil is like nothing I’ve read before. Not only is it a fantasy novel set in Brisbane Australia (YAY), but it features a strong willed, and rather un-likeable female chatacter who comes across as frankly quite crass and like a bitch, and yet still finds a way to worm into you heart without the reader noticing. The narrative itself is super fast paced too with intense action-thriller-and-adventure moments happening every other second.
When I started reading the novel, I didn’t realise that Angela Slatter was Australian, nor did I realise that the story itself was set in a slightly re-imagined version of Brisbane Australia. So you can imagine my surprise when the authors note (prior to the narrative) talks about Brisbane, and how refreshing it was to read Australian characters written by Australians. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the big fantasy authors from all over the globe, but there was something undeniably refreshing and invigorating about reading an all-Australian epic fantasy novel set in our own backyard. Slatter nailed the speech and personality of Australians and I just loved reading about people who I quite simply could have passed in the street without me even knowing.
Vigil might be a fantasy novel, but it’s also a paranormal police procedural and action adventure novel. Right from the first page, Verity our resident halfling and Private Investigator, is thrown into crime after crime, with both the Weyrd world and that of the Normal world hounding her non-stop for answers. With super-humans and mythological beings trying to kill her, and each other, around every corner, Verity certainly has her hands full as she stomps her way through the world we know, and the one we only wish we could discover.
Verity Fassbinder is a half-blood or a strangling; born to a Father of Weyrd origin and a Normal mother, she is destined to walk in between the two worlds never really knowing or finding her place in either. Although gifted with super-human strength thanks to her half Weyrd parentage, and armed with a smart mouth and quick tongue, Verity is not for the faint hearted. With life constantly letting her down, she’s incredibly pissed and doesn’t care who knows it. With her anger bubbling just below the surface, it doesn’t take much to set Verity off, and she is not one to tolerate bullshit.
‘What are you going to do?”
“What I always do: my best impersonation of a bull in a china shop until someone tires of the damage and gives me what I want.”
Full of snappy comebacks, non-stop anger and blunt truths, Verity comes across like a bitch for much of the novel and is thus a prime example that strong characters, regardless of gender, do not necessarily have to be likeable to work. Having been burned by the Weyrd and Normal community alike, Verity likes to keep her guard up and only reveals herself to those she truly trusts. While I commend her for being so strong and doing just that, as a reader I would have liked to have been able to emotional connect with the character just that little bit more.
I also loved the fact that here was a character who grew tired. Verity might have super-human strength, but she wasn’t indestructible – as evident from the wide variety of injuries she manages to retain on almost a daily basis- nor was she above such human weaknesses as food, sleep and general tiredness. Everyone wants a bit of Verity’s time – in fact, 90% of the characters in the book DEMAND it, but she acknowledges the need to sleep, eat and just rest which is usually not seen in the big fantasy’s and I kind of love Slatter for exploring this realistic and ‘human’ side of the genre.
I absolutely adored Lizzy, Verity’s cute-as-a-button kid next-door neighbour, who knows how to find herself in trouble way more than any kid should. I loved the way she complemented Verity’s hard shell demeanour by being both a little bit edgier, but innocent and vulnerable at the same time.
Verity’s boss Zvezdomir ‘Bela’ Tepes, intrigued me most out of probably everyone in the book and I so wanted more of his voice and presence on the page. Slatter constantly alludes to a romantic past between Bela and Verity and I really wish we got to see more of that, for as the story currently stands, I felt like there was so much back-story being withheld that perhaps we should have known.
Likewise I highly enjoyed Ziggi, a fellow workmate of Verity’s and her chauffeur thanks to a ‘serker accident attack that left Verity injured some months prior to the book opening. Although Ziggi is constantly about in the book, acting as Verity’s soundboard and driver, I really wished we’d been able to see more of his character as well. I also find it slightly odd the amount of times Tepes told Ziggi to watch over and protect Verity, and yet he remained in the car at a distance while Verity ran off on one harebrained scheme or another.
David was much of a non-event for me in this book. I was so hooked on the Bela/Verity hidden back-story that I was positive that it would rear it’s head once more. To a large extent this fascination with Tepes/Fassbinder meant that I overlooked David’s character and couldn’t shake this horrible feeling that something wasn’t right with him. I guess only time will tell him as to what his true motives are and whether the reader should trust him as wholeheartedly as Verity does without question.
All of that said, this book wasn’t all sunshine and roses for me. It took me a long time to immerse myself in the world and the cast of thousands characters was a little overwhelming (and confusing at times). While I admired Verity’s strength (not necessarily in the physical sense, but her strength of character), her crass humour and the shield she erected around herself kept me from really engaging with her as much as I would have liked. I always felt like as the reader, I was three steps back from her, held behind a silk barrier allowed to witness, but not fully engage with the character. Which was a shame because the writing of the novel is second to none, and the premise of the story is brilliant. It was just that barrier that stopped me from enjoying the book that little bit more and taking this from a solid four star read to an out of this world five star epic novel.
To sum up if you are a fan of Matthew Reilly high impact action adventure stories, Cassandra Clare’s dark and fantasy underworld living alongside our normal world with the energy and immediacy of Holly Black’s fantasy novels, then I highly recommend you pick up this series.
Corspelight, book two in the Verity Fassbinder series releases July 2017.
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