I am so excited to be part of this blog tour for Vigil which is the first (solo) novel from Australian fantasy author. Angela has written a number of award winning short story collections and co-written two novels Midnight and Moonshine and The Female Factory with Lisa L. Hannett. If you are a fan of Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs or Ben Aaronovitch then get ready for your next favourite read. You van connect with Angela on the internet @AngelaSlatter or through her excellent website http://www.angelaslatter.com/
Vigil is the story of Verity Fassbinder a Brisbane native caught between two cultures. Verity is the result of a marriage between a Weyrd and a Normal, her parents died when she was still a child. Her father was a notorious Weyrd criminal who broke the laws that preserve the fragile peace between our world and theirs. Now she utilises her own magic for good. Verity has super strength; handy when your job involves exploring spooky old houses and chasing Weyrd with a fondness for the old ways and a taste for human flesh. Verity works for the Weyrd council investigating anything strange or anyone who doesn't keep the peace between the normal world and the Weyrd. She has to respond to calls for help from the cops and the council which doesn't leave much time for relationships but it's all about to get very complicated as not only is there a new guy on the scene but kids are disappearing across the city and someone is killing Sirens, so Verity has a busy time ahead.
I loved this book. Verity is brilliant she's kind hearted but tough and she'll break the rules to do what's right. She's proud of her heritage while also feeling her father's legacy as a burden to be carried. The Weyrd characters are beautifully realised Angela Slatter has worked hard to establish a unique mythology which feels very Australian while also being tied to the old countries that many of the Weyrd come from and to the old mythologies. At the same time though Verity feels so thoroughly normal she looks out for her neighbour, she feels goofy around a potential date and she is well aware of the weirdness she carries around with her. It's a page turning read, highly recommended.
Vigil is available now from Jo Fletcher Books.
There's an extract below to give a flavour of the book and an insight into Verity and her methods. This quote in particular I can identify with:
"That’s where the bookshops came in: I didn’t feel as if I was playing dress-up or wearing a suit of
armour there. Around the books, I didn’t have to be anyone but me."
Vigil by Angela Slatter extract
I owned a lot of books, a collection built up over the years. Of course, heaps of information was
online but it wasn’t the real stuff; besides, I didn’t trust the Internet. It might give useful hints about
where to go when I was researching something, but those were simply leads, and whilst some
turned out to be useful, many were completely unreliable. The World Wide Web was just anarchy in
a virtual container – there was no knowledge there, only data in ephemeral and frequently unsound
form. But a book, a nice solid book, a thing you could touch and hold and, more importantly, own −
that was solid. That was tangible.
Books had shown me that although I was different, I wasn’t alone.
My father’s library disappeared after his arrest and was probably still mouldering in an evidence
locker somewhere. My grandparents had cleaned out Grigor’s house, my old home, and disposed of
anything that wasn’t suitable to be left next to Women’s Weekly, which covered pretty much
everything. They turned out to be very particular about reading material where I was concerned, at
such pains to give me a Normal childhood, but I started spending my pocket money on questionable
investments such as compendiums of tales about the occult and ghosts, myths and legends . . . weird
stuff that would later become Weyrd. I hid my illicit purchases under my bed, behind the old
suitcase stuffed with the toys I’d outgrown but couldn’t bear to throw away.
My adolescent rebellion might have been nerdier than most, but I found myself hanging out in the
sort of bookstores that didn’t look like proper shops, the ones hidden down dark alleys, with doors
with peeling paint and strangely sturdy locks, or behind hidden trapdoors in the storerooms of shiny
new book chain-stores, under which would be the rest of the inventory: books as old as breathing,
covered in everything from tightly woven hair to human skin, from shaved bone shards to glass,
from beaten bronze to blood-dyed silks.
I wasn’t like other kids. I knew things they didn’t; I’d seen things they never would – and I was
strong, so strong. Grandma warned me over and over: No pushing, no shoving, no fighting, no
matter what – you don’t know your own strength, Verity. I really did, though, and I was careful not
to use it against anyone – or at least, not until I was older and started recognising and encountering
the Weyrd again.
That’s where the bookshops came in: I didn’t feel as if I was playing dress-up or wearing a suit of
armour there. Around the books, I didn’t have to be anyone but me. That was where Bela first found
me − or maybe ‘made contact’. He knew who I was. Now I realise of course the Council would keep
an eye on Grigor’s daughter, but when I was fifteen I was flattered and naturally, I developed a fierce
schoolgirl crush. He wasn’t interested then (not until I was well into my twenties), but in those early
years he showed me my heritage, pointed me towards tomes filled with disguised versions of the
truth of where we came from, and others not so disguised. He taught me not to be afraid of what I
It’s no wonder I loved him for so long.
He’d also been a great giver of books while we were together – a great forgetter of anniversaries
and birthdays, too, but random books-for- no-reason helped to smooth that over. But I’d grown my
library mostly on my own, though I only ever bought those volumes I could afford to pay for. Some
could be had for a lot of cold hard cash, others for a lock of hair, a tiny square of skin, a vial of blood
or a whisper of breath, but Bela had taught me that it was unwise to give up any part of yourself,
even for knowledge. You never knew what someone would do with something so personal.
The bestiary on my lap was written in bad Latin, which had made it a little cheaper, but it’d
still cost me the better part of a month’s salary. My Latin was even more atrocious (needless to say
my language studies grades had not been stellar), but it had good pictures, which I could ‘read’, and
armed with a dictionary and a basic primer, I managed. Shame about all that effort. The entry on
sirens told me nothing I didn’t already know.
The winged women with the legs of birds had not been sea-going to begin with. One
particular branch of the family had started that tradition, and had also started mating with men.
Their appetite for flesh had also increased, and over the years they’d evolved, losing their aerial
abilities and morphing into water creatures. The other branch, the older one, stayed aloft and kept
their wings − they didn’t hold with all that reclining on rocks and serenading their dinner, although
they still liked the seduction, the chase. Some liked the murderous habits so much they couldn’t or
wouldn’t give them up; some just liked to tease and flirt, to break a heart or twelve.
I closed the book and contemplated what could kill a siren. Bullets, arrows, decapitation,
they’d all do it. Poison wouldn’t work – maybe because their own blood was already so toxic. It’s
difficult to catch something that can fly away unless you’re a dab hand with nets. They had fangs and
claws, so they could defend themselves pretty effectively. And then there was that whole hypnotic
effect: some idiots, men and women both, were dumb enough to fall victim to their lures, rather like
a bird being mesmerised by a snake. On the whole, siren bodies were as frail as humans’, but unless
violence was visited upon them, they simply outlived us. Hell, they’d outlived whole civilisations.
And there had been no marks on the dead siren, whoever she was, apart from the standard fell-
from-a- great-height- and-went- splat kind.
The autopsy might show something, but I wasn’t going to bet on it. Whoever – or whatever
– had murdered the siren had probably been smart enough to clean up after themselves. So if there
was anything there to be found, I’d have to wait for McIntyre to call once the chopping-up- and-
cataloguing part was done. Oddly, I’m squeamish about that kind of thing.
The city’s sirens had a regular meeting place: they got together once a month, at the full moon, and
fortuitously, we were due a full moon that very Sunday. Sometimes they sang, not the nasty, lure-
you-to- your-death sort of singing, which is never conducive to maintaining a low profile, but a nice
ladies’ choir thing. They gathered together for the same reasons humans do: for companionship, to
be surrounded by their own so they didn’t feel so alone. Of course, there are edgy loners in every
species, and I really hoped that whoever the victim was, she hadn’t been one of those, not only
because that would it make my task more difficult, but it would mean she wasn’t mourned or
missed, and that always made me sad.
Mindful of Ziggi’s etiquette tip to ensure my continued good health – it was fairly basic: don’t be
rude, because sirens have a very strict view of what constitutes good manners – I tucked the bestiary
into my bag, rose and walked along the cliff path towards the park with its herd of BBQ pergolas
sitting in pools of artificial light. Maybe on a non-siren night David and I would go there, bring some
Thai food, talk into the wee hours.
The full moon turned the landscape silvery-ash. Everything – buildings, cars, city lights, trees,
people, the river below – was washed of colour, rendered ghostly and limned with a strange sort of
shine in the winter air. Soon enough I stopped noticing that because I heard the melody, seeping in
through my pores and making my belly tingle.
As I got closer the singing got clearer, splitting into lyrics, a version of Greek before time and
history were recorded. I caught the words for moonlight and grace and mother, which was as far as
my dodgy translation skills allowed. I figured it for a hymn, the open sky their church. The power was
pitched low, so as not to entrance anyone, but I could see figures gathered on balconies in the
apartment complexes across the road, and evening picnickers scattered along the cliffs listening,
quite still, food momentarily forgotten.
The women were clustered on one of the grey- and white-tiled lookouts, the one closest to
the tiny garden of St Mary’s Church, at the farthest end of the park. A glass and steel wall kept land
and empty air apart. About thirty of them stood in a loose arrow formation, hands by their sides,
faces lifted to the moon, mouths moving in unison. They were all dressed differently – anything else
would have screamed ‘cult’ – but without exception each was beautiful. Just behind every one I
could see a sort of shimmer effect: the hidden wings.
As I neared, I focused on the woman at the tip of the arrow. She was older than her
companions, although still enduringly lovely, ageing gracefully with high cheekbones and a firm jaw.
Others looked like extremely well preserved forties, a few in their thirties, but the majority of them
appeared to be young, late teens, early twenties. Many of these creatures were ancient enough to
have seen the Fall of Troy, but this was a relatively new nest, just over a hundred years old, in a small
community, owing to a general exodus when the proscription against human hors d’oeuvres came
I stopped a respectful distance from them and waited for the song to finish. Slowly the notes
dropped away like leaves fallen from a height, and as the music died, so the colour was restored to
the cityscape. Then thirty heads turned to pin me with luminous stares until one broke from the
group, a glaring adolescent, and approached me.
‘You’re not welcome. This time is private.’
There's one more stop on the blog tour tomorrow over at Natural Bri, check it out.