Review: Reign of Beasts by Tansy Rayner Roberts

0117HARP_ReignBeasts1I’ve been on a Tansy Rayner Roberts jag lately, reading the entire Cafe La Femme series she writes under the name Livia Day and finally getting to the third book in her fabulous fantasy Creature Court trilogy. I have no idea why I waited so long to get to Reign of Beasts, but it was worth the wait!

I have previously waxed exceedingly lyrical about Tansy Rayner Roberts’ skills as a storyteller, particularly with her plotting. You can never tell where the story’s going to go (in an entirely good way) and each revelation unfurls a dozen possibilities with it. Like the seers seeing a multiverse of futures, it takes a while for the possibilities to be narrowed down – and even then, there’s really no predicting the outcome.

Except that it’ll be satisfying. Oh yes, it will.

Reign of Beasts continues in this magnificent trend, as we run fleet-footed in the wake of everyone’s terrible decisions and rapid beating of their fragile, mistrustful hearts, towards an ending that is epic and utterly satisfying.

This novel brings to a conclusion the beautifully and densely crafted world where humans with incredible powers, gifted to them by a nebulous energy called animor, can turn into animals – hence their name of the Creature Court. Every night they fight a little known enemy from the sky, and by day conduct themselves and their courtesi like it’s the last days of Rome. Which it sort of is, as the Creature Court of Aufleur (and the courts of other cities) are slowly losing their war. The city of Tierce has already been swallowed by the sky, and the people of the daylight don’t even remember it existed.

And now we have the tyrannical Garnet – perhaps worse than Nero ever was – who has returned with dressmaker and surprise Power and Majesty (head of the Court), Velody. They’d both been swallowed by the sky and their return throws the Creature Court into disarray. Well. More disarray than usual.

But the final battle with the sky is coming, and everyone has to work out where their loyalties lie, and it may not be in the same place as where their love resides. Distrust, betrayal, prophesies, love triangles (and pyramids – some of this is much too complex for 3D geometry) and desperation are the obstacles. Not to mention the greatest mystery of them all: why is there a sky war at all?

Reign of Beasts begins in the past, with the Creature Court oddity, Poet, telling the story of his beginnings as an orphan in a theatre show and how he came to join the Creature Court. His story is interwoven with the current troubles and machinations of the Court, until it’s very clear exactly how much he’s had to do with the mess they’re all in, and the schemes surrounding what’s to come.Power and Majesty cover

Once we’re all caught up, the story barrels on ahead at breakneck speed once more. Even the quiet parts are somehow vibrant with the waiting for what happens next?! We’re also never entirely ‘all caught up’ because Roberts continues to cleverly weave in the history of characters and cities that are utterly in tune with everything we’ve known to date, but shed fresh light on current events and coming conclusion.

And even when we finally understand the war and its cause and how it ends, nothing ends obviously. Not everyone gets a happy ending, but perhaps everyone gets a satisfying one. One that makes sense within who they are and what they need.

I could blather on for a bit, but that would be taking up time you should be spending on reading this trilogy. Go. Go now. Off you go. Read this award-winning magnificence! Shoo!

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