Kate Gordon

Random House Australia

ISBN: 9781864718812

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Thyla by Kate Gordon is a second novel, though Kate Gordon’s debut was a straight teen friendship story, without specfic elements. This one, however, is paranormal all the way, and interesting to me for several reasons: Kate is a local writer friend, and this story is set in and around areas of Hobart I know very well.

Also … paranormal YA with werethylacines? How could anyone resist?

One of the things I liked most about this book is the way it played with the idea of a truly unreliable narrator. This is a technique I love, which was handled especially well in Holly Black’s White Cat last year. In this case, the heroine is a lost girl found in the wilds of Tasmania (our wilds get pretty wild, and some of them are not that far from suburbia) with most of her memory missing. She knows her name is Tess, but very little else, and she clings to Connolly, the policewoman who found her, and is nursing her own hurt about a daughter who was lost in the same area of bush where Tess was found.

Narrated with lyrical ease, another element of the story is that it is told for the most part in second person, Tess fixating upon the largely absent figure of Connolly as she describes to her what happened after Tess arrived at the boarding school where she is to be housed until the police figure out more about who she is, and where she comes from. There’s a gothic sensibility to the story as Tess literally takes the place of the missing-presumed-dead girl Cat Connolly, taking over her bed and roommate, and soon begins to suspect that there was rather more to Cat’s disappearance than a bushwalk gone wrong.

She and the reader both start to realise, piece by piece, that Tess doesn’t fit into this world, and the confusion she has about Aussie slang and culture might actually have nothing at all to do with her memory loss…

Fair warning that this is the first part of what I believe is a duology, though I felt this volume answered enough of the mystery to be satisfying for now … as long as Vulpi comes out soon! This highly original revamp of common paranormal tropes blends with the historical urban myths of Hobart Town and a snappy contemporary style to make a story which is part Tasmanian Gothic, part Picnic at Hanging Rock, part Buffy the Vampire Slayer.