The official blurb:
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.
Angela Slatter’s ‘Vigil’ is a whodunnit wrapped up in a dark, urban fantasy world, and one of the many delightful things about this terrific page-turner of a book, is that both the murder mystery, and the fantasy part of the story work so well. The murder mystery kept me guessing until the very end, just the way it should, and the fantasy world Slatter introduces is rich and convincing, and peopled with a cast of odd, frightening, entertaining, and occasionally horrifying creatures – both human and…not so human.
I’ve read a lot of Slatter’s short fiction (her novella ‘Of Sorrow And Such‘, for example) and in all her stories, she 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, and as the story unfolds and the mystery deepens (who is killing those sirens? what is up with that awful wine made from suffering children?), we get to delve deeper and deeper into the things that make Verity tick. Verity’s sense of humour really struck a chord with me throughout the book, and my favourite Verity-line might just be: “Trust me. I almost know what I’m doing.” (I’m totally using that from now on!)
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.
‘Vigil’ is an excellent read, and highly recommended for people who like dark fantasy and murder mysteries. It’s also the first book in a series, and I’m very much looking forward to catching up with Verity Fassbinder again.
Note: ‘Vigil’ is available from Amazon UK and Amazon Australia, but depending on where you live in the world, you might have some difficulty getting your mitts on the book. I’m in Canada, and the book is not yet released in North America, but you can order it from The Book Depository: they ship books free of charge to most countries.