Angela Slatter – Vigil

angelaslatter-vigilVerity 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.

Welcome to Brisneyland! The story Angela Slatter presents us with in her debut solo-novel Vigil is a departure from her previous work, which I have heard people raving about for the past few years really. As such it was the perfect place for me to start my first Angela Slatter story, since it is the beginning of a series and the start of this new urban fantasy direction for the author. And I loved it. Vigil is a fantastic read, with a heroine who captured my heart. 

I loved Verity Fassbinder to bits. Verity is a combination of tough as nails, with a huge heart, but vulnerable and also not indestructible. When she gets into scrapes she gets hurt and she needs to recover both physically and mentally. Even if she does receive some magical healing, she can’t magically shrug off trauma. After being seriously hurt in a dark, abandoned house before the start of the narrative, she gets nervous and apprehensive when in similar situations, having to actually take the time to convince herself that this time the situation is different and things will be okay.

I also really appreciated that while Verity is dark and broody and she has a hard time letting down her walls, she is deeply loyal and craves emotional connection as well. This is illustrated by her bond with her young neighbour Lizzie and Lizzie’s mum Mel, as well as her friendship with Ziggi — who is something of a father figure or perhaps more a kindly uncle — and her boss and ex-boyfriend Bela. And of course, her grudging realisation how much she cares for her police contact Rhonda McIntyre.

In a way Lizzie, Mel, Ziggi and Bela form something of a found family for Verity, a family that is completed when she meets David. The way Slatter developed Verity’s relationship with David was wonderful. It is largely in the background, but he becomes deeply ingrained in her life and her heart. Once she finally finds some stability at home, circumstances force her to confront her memories of and her feelings regarding her father. Verity’s relationship to her dad is very complex, where on the one hand she has good memories of him from when she was really young, but he turns out to be a really dark figure in Weyrd society. So much of what Verity does, seems to be motivated by her feeling guilt about who and what her father was; there is an element of atonement to her work as a human/Weyrd peacekeeper.

Slatter’s Weyrd society in Brisbane was fascinating. I loved the concept of a “hidden-in-plain-sight” community of immigrants from the Old World, who fled to Australia to escape prosecution from humans in their countries of origins. The Weyrd community is an amalgamation of various old world monster traditions, ranging from the Nordic to the Slavic and everything in between. The difference between Brisneyland and Brisbane is clear, but the ways the two overlap are very cool.

Vigil’s plot is your basic mystery plot, where Verity has to solve several interlinked cases and basically save the world. I loved the way Slatter build these cases, though my favourite one was the one centring on the murdered sirens. Slatter’s interpretation of the sirens was fabulous and together with the Norn sisters they were my favourite creatures in the book. While the construction of the plot and the interlinkage of the cases was cleverly done, some clues Slatter dropped into the narrative were a bit clunky. On one or two occasions, they were such clear signposts that they felt a little by the nose.

Still, if one or two clunky clues were my only quibbles, I can’t really complain, can I? Vigil is a cracking read. I can’t wait for the next book, Corpselight, and I hope there will be far more books in the series, because I’d love to spend lots more time with Verity and friends in Brisneyland.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.