Vigil By Angela Slatter (2016). A review by John Cook

 

vigil

As I have admitted previously, I am not a keen fan of fantasy, so it was a warm recommendation from a group member that encouraged me to put ‘Vigil’ on my reading list. It has not converted me as I found some drawbacks in the book, but it was not without its pleasures.

 

The analytical part of my mind and the nature of this group was attracted to the viewpoint of the narrator. Verity Fassbinder lives in the middle of two worlds – the normal and the Weyrd especially as she was born from both. This is not unlike the experience of many gay writers who use their sense of apartness and observational position to advantage to describe and commentate. The book is well set in Brisbane (a surprise) and benefits from echoes of familiarity and identification. This is not tiresomely detailed as the locales while specific are fantasised in ways that are appropriate – who hasn’t had interesting experiences of old West End housing and its odd coffee shops while the Kangaroo Point Cliffs and St Mary’s church are also utilised. On the other hand, I found the naming of characters off-putting at times.

 

Verity has a role as a kind of investigator and trouble-shooter that keeps her balancing influences for good and evil as she seeks to locate a child that is representative of the often extreme nature of the differences between her two worlds. In fact, with human-like malevolent influences largely emerging from the Weyrd world of shape shifting individuals, sirens, angels and even a golem, the child becomes a focal point for a chain of events potentially leading to Armageddon.

 

Verity, as an investigator, has useful contacts and sources for her bridging existence. Her dual birth inheritances did not endow her with more monstrous weirdness, but did provide her with heightened physical strength which a narrative aid at times though she uses a knife with skill and is familiar  with tasers. She is en passage from a Weyrd relationship to one with the long suffering normal, David.

 

There is no shortage of action in what is essentially a detective noir and I enjoyed a lot of the description, the wry dry comments and some of the dialogue which can be quite snappy. However, I had problems with the pacing of the piece. There were quite a lot of individuals, with intertwining plot lines. I found myself wandering at times and wishing for a more direct narrative line and more of the set piece occasions such as the action beneath the Chelmer mansion, the alternative Weyrd City Hall and especially the events at and below St Mary’s.

 

I shall now keep my eyes wide open in my travels around my home town looking for traces of the Weyrd when enjoying a meal at West End.

 

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