It always takes me ages to review Tansy’s books, because there are so many things I want to say that they get in the way of each other and I know it will take ages and then I put it off and… you get to this point, where it’s five months since I read the book and I’ve forgotten half the things I wanted to say. So this is just a few comments, really, about things I enjoyed (because I did enjoy it, and there’s not much I didn’t).
Spoiler for book 1 and 2; why on earth would you read this review if you haven’t already read them?? Also, I’m friends with Tansy, if it makes a difference to you.
Roberts takes a different narrative tack with this novel: she introduces a reminiscing point of view, the identity of whom is hidden for most of the book. Of course I think it’s obvious in hindsight, but there really were a number of people it could have been! It is clearly someone currently involved in the Creature Court, but who… yeh, that’s clever. This serves a really important purpose: the perspective of an outsider becoming an insider. Velody sort of performs this task in the first two books, but she is older than this perspective (at least at the start), and also comes from a different background – in terms of family, and class, and expectations too. Also gender. So seeing the Creature Court from this (also much earlier) view gives a whole new angle on the interactions between various characters, and the events preceding our events, too. This was a very excellent part of the novel.
I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that there’s a lot of catastrophe in this novel. This should not be a surprise. Velody has returned with Garnet, which was always going to bring down ruination and destruction of one sort or another, on the city or the Court or both and/or the sky. Also, Rhian starts telling everyone that everything will be decided at Saturnalia, which is awfully soon when the novel opens. So, there’s that. Plus Garnet in full flight (heh, literally), other members of the Creature Court acting as only they can, and Rhian and Delphine… well. Acting as we’ve come to expect. Except when they don’t. Roberts does seem really interesting things character-wise that are quite unexpected but at the same time entirely in keeping. Which is awesome.
It might also be a slight spoiler to say that Velody actually leaves Aufleur for a brief period in this novel, which is another quite different and awesome aspect. Too often third books are merely, if awesome, conclusions to a series, following on from everything that has come before. Roberts manages to introduce entirely new elements of her world, which – as with the characters – are still entirely in keeping. Seeing more of this world, outside the jaded, familiar, decayed and corrupt Aufleur, adds a whole new dimension to our understanding of Aufleur and our characters – just as understanding its history does, with the new point of view.
Keep in mind that Roberts is a bit mean, and you won’t be surprised that few if any of her characters escape without scars (literally) from this novel. That said, it’s a worthy and brilliant conclusion to the trilogy, even if you might not be entirely happy with some of the resolutions. I mean, really, would you expect to be? It’s not like she has been in the two earlier novels.