This review is going to be hard for me to write. Vigil was written by Australian author, Angela Slatter, and this is her first full-length novel. Not only that, but I went to the book launch for Vigil with a bunch of friends. I ate cupcakes with tiny fondant recreations of Vigil‘s cover on them. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Q & A with the author as she discussed the challenges of setting a gritty urban fantasy in the River City (Brisbane, to all you non-locals out there).
I wanted to love this book. And I liked it, I truly did. I wouldn’t have finished it in two days if I hadn’t. But I didn’t love it.
I loved the premise. There is the Normal world and the Weyrd (read: weird. It took me longer than I care to admit to figure that one out) world. Our narrator, Verity Fassbinder, is able to move through both of these worlds as she is the child of one Normal and one Weryd parent. She’s a private eye who investigates supernatural crimes around Brisbane when they are brought to her. This book focuses on two of those cases: the serial killings of sirens and the appearance of a golem that is also killing things in a serial manner.
The world building in Vigil was spectacular. I loved that West End was a Weyrd hotspot because the Weyrd community would blend in with the local Normals (as a Brissy girl I can confirm that this would be the case). I love that the Gold Coast is a bridge between these worlds and that Brisbane City Hall is important to both the Weyrd and the Normal. And I loved that one of the major crime scenes had a ’12 Grimmauld Place’ vibe to it, in that it fit between Normal houses. The world was fascinating.
I also loved the pace. This book moves smoothly, in that it’s quiet and slow when it needs to be while also being loud and break-neck speed in others. Pacing isn’t something that I usually comment on, but in a book with so much new information being thrown at us, I appreciated Slatter’s ability to let us both absorb this information while also throwing us breathlessly into the action.
Unfortunately, there were a few things that I didn’t enjoy, and this is the part that is going to be hard.
My biggest issue was that there were multiple scenes that felt contrived. These were usually scenes where exposition took place.
Now, as we are all probably aware by this point, Hermione Granger was an expository character for us Muggles (or do we use No-Maj now?) in the Harry Potter series. But her explanations of things were so much a part of her character that this felt natural. Slatter didn’t quite manage to make her exposition quite so invisible The best example of this was during the climax when the bad guy literally spelled out their evil plan for Verity. It was completely that overblown trope of “since you’re going to die, I’m just going to spell out my entire plan for you because who are you going to tell?”. And I was aware of it the entire time. I was fascinated by what the villain was saying, but seriously? Villains really shouldn’t do that, because it always ends in disaster for them. Which in this case is exactly what happened.
The other contrived scene was the very end. Verity is having lunch with her police liaison, Rhonda and their conversation is all about tying up loose ends for the reader. Nothing about this conversation felt natural to me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved finding out what happened to all of the other characters, but after what those two women had been through, I felt like this was a way to sum up without having to add more pages. I mean, these two women had just been through some fairly intense traumas and they’re having lunch to discuss other people? I don’t think so.
But worse than that was the whole “is-Verity-pregnant?” thing that sprung up. Literally, Verity got asked twice whether she was pregnant and she flat out ignored the question. I understand what Slatter was trying to do *coughcliffhangercough*, but I did not buy for a second that fast-talking, sassy Verity would ignore that question. She would have something to say, even if it wasn’t actually an answer. So having her ignore this incredibly personal question? No. Nu-uh.
I’ve babbled for long enough I think, so I’ll leave it here. But to sum up, Vigil is an incredibly entertaining book with just a few bumps that will probably get smoothed out in the follow-up to Vigil, Corpselight. Which I will read, I guarantee it.