Last year I had the pleasure of attending GenreCon in Brisbane and I was delighted to meet a few Australian authors who were there to talk about the trials and tribulations of writing creatively. I also bought far too many books, so many that I ended up sneaking them into a friend’s bag as I only had carry on luggage. Of those books I bought, one was Vigil by Angela Slatter. I was able to speak briefly with Angela during a morning tea and not only got my book signed, but had a wonderful chat about the art of writing.
Angela is not only an award winning author of many short story collections, she also published her debut novel Vigil in 2016 with the second book Corpselight out last year, and she does manuscript assessments. (A service which I was very much interested in and have just recieved from her a 17 page report on very useful and constructive feedback for my work in progress without my fragile little writer’s soul being crushed. More on that another time.)
I’d heard a lot about Angela from a friend (the same friend who kindly smuggled my books back home for me) who is a huge fan of her writing and had a short story assessed by her. I was very keen to read Vigil as Angela comes across as someone who’s worked very hard to be where she is and it shows.
I very much agree with Starburst’s description of Vigil as “Imagine Angela Carter mixed with Sandman-era Neil Gaiman; Vigil adds a little Ben Aaronovitch to the mix”. I adore all three authors mentioned (I lectured two semesters on Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, fully recognize Neil Gaiman is in a league of his own, and absolutely adore Aaronvitch’s Rivers of London series), so I had high expectations when I started reading Vigil. I was not disappointed.
Here are the things I love about Vigil.
The strong female lead. I knew from the very first line of chapter one - “The ribbon was judging me, I knew it” - that Verity was going to be the kind of character who I’d root for from the very beginning. She’s kick arse, clever, funny, stubborn and has a dark past she never asked for. She doesn’t have a choice but to walk the line between two worlds, but she’s gutsy, has a devil-may-care attuitude regarding figures of authority and has a big heart, especially when dealing with children.
The romance. There’s just the right balance in that it’s a minor plot line and most of the development happens off the page. The love interest is not there to validate Verity’s thoughts or actions, and instead is just there mostly for emotional support. I’ve always had a weakness for geeky guys with glasses, too.
The complex narrative threads weave together so smoothly and naturally. I’d rather not say too much about the plot, other than Verity is a PI for the supernatural community and the cases she juggles are wonderfully interwoven.
It’s set in Brisbane. Yay for novels set in Australia! I’ve visited Brisbane enough to be vaguely familiar with the area, and it’s always a delight when you recognise places in pieces of fiction.
The writing is beautiful. Angela’s background is in fairytales and you can tell. The imagery and language are wonderfully crafted with a care that truly drives the story forward. I’m glad the second book is out already so I can just keep reading (and I’m thrilled to dive into her short story collections while I wait for the possible third novel Restoration hopefully due out this year).
When I rate novels on GoodReads, I give three stars for books I enjoy but wouldn’t neccessarily recommend, four stars for those I would, and five stars for books I’d read myself again. Vigil is a five star.