Review: The Shattered City by Tansy Rayner Roberts (AWW Challenge 2013 #3)

shattered cityLast year, I read and absolutely adored the first of Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Creature Court series, Power and Majesty.

At last I’ve had the time to read the second in the trilogy, The Shattered City, and once more I have been blown away by the brilliance of the storytelling. Character, plot, pace, theme: everything is pitch perfect.

The Shattered City manages to recreate everything that is so compelling about Power and Majesty and then bloom like fireworks from that starting point. And yes, I am aware of the hyperbole, but seriously? SERIOUSLY? Hyperbole is necessary.

In this second part of the Creature Court series, the dressmaker Velody has come belatedly into her powers and managed to make a place for herself in the court – she is their Power and Majesty, presuming she can keep this not entirely trustworthy band together, defeat the sky in its nightly battle to devour the city of Aufleur, and not get herself or her friends killed in the process.

That may be much harder than the already very difficult task seems. The sky seems to be growing in destructive capacity and intent, and something is loose in Aufleur, attacking the Court and sewing distrust. Well, more distrust. What it is, where it’s from and what it portends are all very worrying indeed.

Velody looks like she might be holding it all together; she might be changing the Court to a better alliance after all – if she survives. That is a very long way from guaranteed.

In the meantime, Velody’s friend Delphine pauses in her merry dance of self-destruction to deny deny deny that she has any role with the Court or its sentinels, and Rhian, who survived such a terrible ordeal, has to learn how to deal with people again. There are roles laid out for everyone, path they should be treading – if only the wretches would do as they’re told. But they don’t. They won’t play fate’s games, let alone the court’s, and the resulting conflicts and clashes send the story hurtling with cracking pace, humour, drama and some really deadly frocks.

Power and Majesty flew along at a brilliant pace, yet provided time for character and back story to grow. It was never predictable and always surprised me without once doing anything that didn’t fit the story or the people in it. It was a lot for a sequel to live up to. That The Shattered City surpasses it is a hell of a feat.

A lot of the time as I read a book, events unfold and I start to see the shape of how the story will be told. Without knowing exactly how something will come to pass, I can start to see the shade and shape of an ending. As the book progresses, doors close on possibilities and you feel yourself guided towards a particular outcome. Of course, surprises can still occur, but generally there’s a feeling of knowing what the path ahead is paved with, at least, if not the final destination.

The Shattered City laughs in the face of such notions, in the best way. While you can see some dangers before the characters do (in the best tradition of Hitchcockian suspense), the full consequences are always just beyond sight. Events occur, some possibilities close off, but instead of narrowing down the future, each new event seems to blast off a cavalcade of new futures.

It’s like being a Seer, the way that Hel has visions of all the futures, and each change in the present only sets off a new cascade of possibility.

It’s an incredible bit of writing and plotting, to pull that off – to put the reader in the place of the seer, with all kinds of futures unfolding before you, and all you can do is read on, pulled through events with the frantic desire to find out oh dear god what now? what next? and wonder how it’s all going to end, and who is going to survive any ending we can currently see.

So. Yes. I wax lyrical. I leap about and paint this blog with colourful prose and hyperbole and wave my hands at you in a frantic, inarticulate way while saying: read it read it oh for the love of god, any god, for the love of chocolate, if you have to, but read these books!!!

Because Power and Majesty and The Shattered City are unexpected and textured and deep and wonderful and funny and horrific and created by a writer with such depth, intelligence, wit and  mastery of language, plot, theme and character that I can only sit here and wish I was half as good.

I need a little lie down for a while, but after that – Reign of Beasts, here I come!

Power and Majesty:

The Shattered City:

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.