Tansy Rayner Roberts

Bantam (1999) 

ISBN: 1-863251-49-9 

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (this review was first published January 2006)

Liquid Gold is a sequel to Roberts’ novel Splashdance Silver, but could probably be read independently with no real difficulty. Liquid Gold is the better of the two novels, and although it’s a little hard to be sure (since I *had* read Splashdance Silver), I think it explains most of what you’d need to know if you read this novel alone.

Kassa Daggarsharp, the nominal heroine of the novel, is killed in chapter two, within pages of her first appearance in the novel. Not to worry; although she does, technically, lie down and die, she doesn’t stay down. She is, in fact, a most troublesome tenant of the underworld and creates a quite astounding amount of trouble. Kassa herself would probably claim it’s not her fault. Mistress Opia has created Liquid Gold, which has almost immediately been stolen by the mercenary Sparrow. And in her flight to escape, and deliver the Liquid Gold to her employer, Sparrow manages to scatter the unpleasant side-effects of tampering with Liquid Gold over most of the Mocklore Empire. And the underworld. And everywhere, really…

Kassa isn’t leading them this time, but again a motley collection of characters set out to aid or obstruct her (or her memory). Several of them are making a return appearance from the earlier novel, but there are also a good many new characters.

The characters are a large part of what made this a better novel for me. With Splashdance Silver, I complained that the characters lacked depth. Although they are still not the most fully rounded characters you’ll ever come across, in this novel Roberts has infused some real life into the characters. You feel their dilemmas more fully, and there seems to be genuine emotion behind many of their decisions and actions. This is true of both the new and old characters.

The plot is quite neatly worked out. Roberts throws a good deal into this; she includes an element of quest, double-crossing, time-travel, magic, gods, and vengeance. It’s all worked out so that it makes sense and ties together. It would be hard to describe the plot in more detail than I already have without detailing too much of the novel, as it’s rather twisty. It’s a tighter plot than the earlier novel, and more demanding in that it has fewer diversions purely for humour. Roberts meets her own challenge well.

At the same time, this is a humorous novel. Roberts has a good eye for the pace and tone needed to make a novel amusing and not annoying. Again, like with Splashdance Silver, I found many of the smaller asides more amusing than the larger, more deliberately humorous, scenes. A wide range of people are likely to find this amusing, as there is both a good deal of humour and humour aimed at different levels. I found it consistently amusing. A fair amount of the humour was based on the characters’ actions and reactions, which I found more involving than humour based on the world around them.

Although this was a reasonably sized book in terms of length, I found it a light and fairly quick read. It didn’t demand too much of me intellectually, although you do need to pay some attention to keep track of the plot. It’s not a hard book to put down and pick up again, though; you don’t have to read it in a sitting to keep track of who’s doing what to whom.

Overall, a pleasant and amusing read which I recommend if you’re looking for some light diversion.