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Creature Court trilogy, book 2
Harper Voyager (2011)
ISBN: 978073228944 7
Reviewed by Jason Nahrung
In which the Tasmanian author furthers the tale begun in Power and Majesty. For those who came in late: the city of Aufleur is under attack, with interdimensional rifts trying to destroy it overnight. Defending the city is a bunch of hedonistic and political shape shifters, led by a Power and Majesty. In Book 1, the ruling P&M was whisked away through a split in the sky, and was replaced – not by the most likely candidate, the damaged and reluctant Ashiol, but seamstress Velody.
It’s a gloriously complex world, with Italian Renaissance overtones, and both the workings of the magical world and its relationship with the physical are explored further in The Shattered City.
Creature Court, book 1
Reviewed by Jason Nahrung
Power and Majesty came out in 2010. It’s the first volume of the Creature Court series by Tasmanian writer Tansy Rayner Roberts — the second volume, The Shattered City, and third, Reign of Beasts, are out now. I polished Power and Majesty off on the flight to Perth for Swancon at Easter, where it was awarded a Ditmar for best novel of 2010 and it also won the Aurealis Award for Fantasy Novel, announced in May 2011.
The story is set in Aufleur, where Velody and two friends run a dress shop. Aufleur comes across as an Italian-style town — Renaissance with steamtrains — where festivals are a prime social and economic activity; even the calendar is set by the celebrations.
Behind the superficiality of the social calendar lurks a different reality, however. The sky is an enemy, raining death and destruction in a most creative way — the population is unawares of their peril from this extradimensional danger. It falls to a band of shape-shifting magic users to defend the plane, but they are far from a cohesive entity. Their number has been whittled down by combat and politics and they hunger for leadership from a king. Ashiol is the prime candidate, but abused and ashamed, he wants none of it. And so the jostling begins, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance…
Creature Court Trilogy, Book 2
Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack
DISCLAIMER: Lorraine Cormack is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This review is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.
The Shattered City is a book that surprised me; my primary memory of Roberts’ work was her early novels. These were humorous fantasy, a difficult genre to master, and contained a few mis-steps from a then beginner writer. The Shattered City is a different kettle of fish; although extremely original, it fits the more general “fantasy” mould. Importantly, it is also an excellent book from a writer who seems to have found her stride and settled into it.
Velody is a dressmaker in the city of Aufleur, and as this novel opens she is trying to consolidate her position as Power and Majesty of the Creature Court. The Court is a group of … people, perhaps; each can turn into an animal or animals, and each has a kind of magical power known as animor. At night they wage a violent ongoing battle against the night, which seems determined to destroy Aufleur. And although they are nominally united in this struggle, Velody knows all too well that their alliances are unsteady and that most, if not all, have other agendas to pursue.
For all the talk about dystopia being the new paranormal, it’s not like paranormal is going anywhere. Paranormal (whether or not you tag “romance” on to the end of that) goes through periodic waves of resistance, usually by people rolling their eyes at a large number of similar book covers – funnily enough, regular readers of the genre don’t tend to be the ones complaining at how many titles they have to choose from.
But as a writer, I find that even a hugely popular trope tends not to be overly inspiring unless … well, unless it is. If I’m going to do something with vampires or werewolves or ghosts or whatever, it has to have enough of a unique twist on the concept to keep me interested.
I’m not claiming that my work is especially original, or that better-read paranormal readers will automatically think I’m the best thing since sliced bread (don’t you hate authors who promote their book by constantly harping on about how cliched all the other books are?) but my ideas have to feel fresh and new to me when I am writing them, or I can’t sustain my own interest long enough to produce an entire story.
When I wrote Siren Beat, I was deliberately trying to write urban fantasy without vampires and werewolves because it was intended for an anthology, and I thought my best chance of making it to the top of the pile was to do something a little left of centre, rather than compete with everyone else’s sexy dead lords and dog boys. (hence: one kraken and one sexy sea pony)
With Love and Romanpunk, I wanted to create a universe where the kinds of monsters you find in historical bestiaries roam the earth – so manticores and basilisks were the order of the day. I didn’t have vampires as such but I built on the Roman concept of the ‘lamia’ (a very similar species though one largely made up of slinky women drinking the blood of boys) and in one story let it collide sharply with the traditional Byronic legend of the vampire.
Still, the book was mostly about manticores.
The truth is, when working on both of those universes, I wasn’t working against the weight of vampire fiction so much as I was working against myself, because I already had a fictional universe that was all about vampires … right?
Tansy Rayner Roberts
Creature Court, Book 1
Reviewed by Tehani Wessely, August 2010
I don’t know that I have the words to express how much I adore this book. I have been looking forward to it for what seems like forever, since Roberts first announced the book deal. The waiting worsened when the gorgeous cover art was released, and we were teased by release dates that didn’t match up with shelf dates. Even after I finally got my hands on it, I had reading commitments that meant it sat on my “To Be Read” shelf, giving me sultry gazes, for weeks before I could actually get to it. But boy oh boy, was it worth the wait.
(Disclaimer: I count Tansy as a friend and have published her short work many times.)
Velody arrives in Aufleur at 14 with the ambition to become a dressmaker – she is overwhelmed by the city and homesick at the thought of having to live there for the seven years of her apprenticeship. And then a naked man falls out of the sky, and her whole world – the known, and the unknown – is torn apart.
Tansy Rayner Roberts
Creature Court, Book 1
Reviewed by Mitenae, July 2010
Velody’s move to Aufleur brings more changes to her life than simply becoming an apprentice dressmaker. On her first night there she gives up something, what she’s not quite sure, to a man who falls out of the sky. Years later, when Garnet, the Power and Majesty, dies, her gift returns and Aufleur needs a new Power and Majesty. But the only suitable King refuses and brings Velody into the twisted and malicious web of the creature court she knows nothing of.
I had been looking forward to reading this novel from Tansy Rayner Roberts for a while and it doesn’t disappoint. The characters are beautifully flawed and the storyline ends far too early, leaving you reading the last page and instantly wanting to know what happens next.
It isn’t often that I come across a book that will keep me awake into the wee hours having to read just a bit more. But this one did and for a very good reason. Tansy has created a richly decadent world that is far too morish to be good for anyone’s sleeping patterns.
It is a wonderful addition to dark fantasy and I can’t wait to read the next one.
Tansy Rayner Roberts
Creature Court trilogy, Book 1
ISBN: 978 0 7322 8943 0
Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce, June 2010
I must admit straight up that I am a friend of Roberts’, but I’ve been a fan of her work for much longer than I have known her. I got a copy of her first book (Splashdance Silver) years ago and was hooked by the easy, fast-paced style, the sly characterisation and the slightly map-cap plot. Her later short stories have shown the same elements, but they have also got darker and, well, somewhat unpleasant, in a great-to-read kind of way. This first book of the Creature Court trilogy follows that trend. By the end of the first section, catastrophes of various shapes and sizes have overtaken most of the major characters, and that’s just 82 pages in. The thing about Roberts is that her style is deceptive: descriptions of clothes and setting are so lovingly detailed and not scary that when a nasty thing happens it feels totally unexpected. And she doesn’t hesitate to use those finely-honed descriptions for fights, injuries, and other nastiness.
Power and Majesty is set in Aufleur, a city that is in some ways like those in our world, but is in other ways totally other. It’s a richly imagined urban fantasy, and the city itself is largely inspired by Rome, both in its geography and in its festival calendar. Aside from the people who service them, I don’t quite understand how anyone gets anything done in Aufleur, given the sheer number of all-day festivals that seem to occur. The city is almost a character itself, getting lavish description and some awesome maps that would only be better if they were bigger. The characters are certainly not stay-at-home types, and they run around (and over, and under) the city at a sometimes-alarming speed.