Angela Slatter (www.angelaslatter.com)
Jo Fletcher Books (www.jofletcherbooks.com)
Heavily pregnant, Verity Fassbinder has been side-lined by boss Zvezdomir “Bela” Tepes, which is how she ends up watching a young normal woman whose house is inundated with foul-smelling mud on a monthly basis. When people, both Weyrd and Normal, start to drown on dry land, Verity realises that her “safe” job could be more dangerous than any she has undertaken before, especially when one of her close friends becomes one of the victims. Throw in a trio of kitsune who seem to want Verity dead, and a mysterious sword-wielding woman who will do anything to ensure she stays alive, and Verity will be lucky to reach the full term of her pregnancy and meet her daughter.
Angela Slatter’s debut, Vigil, was one of my favourite books of last year, so it was with some excitement that I started into the follow-up, Corpselight, which returns us to Brisneyland and the strange world of Weyrd-Normal half-breed Verity Fassbiinder. I’ll be honest and say that it took some time for me to get back into the world, but I’m glad I stuck with it; by the end I was reminded of all the reasons I loved Vigil, and all the reasons I’m looking forward to the trilogy’s final volume, Restoration.
The novel is slow to start, a necessity of Verity’s condition, which also makes her a lot more emotional, and a lot more careful about the kinds of situation she finds herself in. Luckily, it does nothing for her acerbic wit and biting narrative. Still more Chandler than Meyer, there is a gritty realism to this world, despite the otherworldly inhabitants, with the only thing guaranteeing Verity’s continued existence the first-person narrative.
Corpselight delves much more deeply into Verity’s background than did its predecessor, which was content with examining the crimes of her Weyrd child-killing father. Here we meet Verity’s mother, a Normal woman who supposedly died when Verity was a child, and learn more about some of her extended family, which comes as much a surprise to the reader as it does to Verity herself. This dovetails well with Verity’s new family, boyfriend David and new daughter Maisie, who makes an appearance about halfway through the book, coinciding with the point at which the story kicks into high gear, and Slatter lets Verity roam free through the pages of the story.
As with Vigil, Brisbane plays an important role in the story, and we find ourselves settling into the city as if it was somewhere familiar. Back, too, are the multitude of mythological creatures that make up the city’s Weyrd contingent: vampires, undines, trolls, kitsune and angels, an unholy host from countless cultural backgrounds, all co-existing in this small Australian city. Slatter’s writing, and Verity’s unique voice, are such that we hardly think twice about the oddities we encounter, lending a sense of reality to even the most off-the-wall encounter: many of these beings seem more normal than some of the oddballs that Philip Marlowe found himself questioning on the streets of 1930s and 40s Los Angeles.
Although it works as an excellent standalone urban fantasy, Corpselight works best when read in context as the middle book of a trilogy. Here is the next evolution of the characters that we fell in love with during the course of the first novel, and the set-up for the trilogy’s final volume promises something epic and puts Restoration high on my list of must-read books for 2018. Slatter has obviously put a lot of thought into the bigger picture, and it pays off: seeds planted in Vigil come into full bloom within the pages of Corpselight, while groundwork is laid here for the grand finale, which is sure to be no less than spectacular.
Corpselight is an excellent follow-up to Slatter’s debut, despite the book’s slow start. Full of black humour and razor-sharp dialogue, it manages to be at once endearing and terrifying. Angela Slatter once again shows that she is a writer to be reckoned with, her characters and situations beautifully-rendered in a believable and realistic world. Verity Fassbinder is a character that is easy to like, and one which the reader will want to visit on a regular basis. This spellbinding second novel leaves little doubt as to Slatter’s immense talent and I can only urge you again, if you have not already, to make the acquaintance of Verity Fassbinder and the denizens of Brisneyland.