Book review: Vigil

Vigil by Angela Slatter
Review by Kylie Thompson

Genre: detective, supernatural, adventure

Verity Fassbinder has a job that sounds infinitely better than it actually is. She’s a detective of sorts, charged with keeping the peace between the world we know, and the magical world that thrives alongside. But since her leg became an unwilling scratching post to a particularly nasty beastie, Verity hasn’t been as pro-work as she used to be.

Some mysteries, though, Verity can’t say no to, and with things getting bad in Brisbane, she finds herself working multiple cases. There’s a murderer sending sirens plummeting from the sky, and a salesman profiteering from an illegal wine made from the tears of abducted human children. But there’s something even worse making a hunting ground of Brisbane’s streets, targeting human and Weyrd alike; a destructive force unlike anything Verity has seen before.
Each case has the ability to break the fragile balance between the humans and the Weyrd, and it’s a race against time for Verity to figure out how to save both sides from a war neither can win.

Verity is the sort of protagonist it’s hard not to love. Intelligent and brave, with a wicked sense of humour and a knack for finding trouble, Verity Fassbinder is certainly the sort of hero we need to see more from. If you like strong female characters who actually sound real and believeable, ‘Vigil’ is a must-read.

Cities like Brisbane don’t always get much attention in fiction, and it’s refreshing to see a growing trend for stories set outside the usual suspect locations. Slatter has darkened the edges of Brisbane, blending the familiar and the extraordinary with a deft hand and a clear love for the city. It’s hard not to want to grab the book and explore Brisbane, even knowing that Verity’s world is not quite true to our reality. The Brisbane of Verity’s world, like JK Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ universe, exists in the mundane world but separated from it, and the overlap between Weyrd and human makes for a dynamic kind of tension.

Verity, as the child of a human and a Weyrd parent, is in the grey-space between the worlds, never fully fitting in to either. For her, that inter-cultural tension sees her as both the best chance at maintaining the peace, and mistrusted by the Weyrd community that relies upon her. What’s beautiful about ‘Vigil’ is that it’s a story that doesn’t take itself painfully seriously. Think the literary version of the Marvel movie franchise, rather than their DC counterpart. This isn’t an angsty story about a woman mourning her inability to fit in- instead, it’s a thrilling adventure with a snarky protagonist who knows her worth.

‘Vigil’ is supernatural adventure at its best- the sort of novel you’ll want to take the day off work for. Trust me, it’s incredibly hard to put this book down. If you’re a fan of superbly written Australian fiction rich with thrills and spills, ‘Vigil’ will certainly become a well-loved feature of your bookshelf. And, thankfully, there will be more Verity Fassbinder adventures in the not-too distant future.

‘Vigil’ is published by Jo Fletcher Books/ Hachette Australia, and is available through the publisher’s websites, and at leading retailers both online and off.

Rating: 5 stars

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