I recently read Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts and liked it a lot. On the strength of that collection I decided to give Ms Roberts latest trilogy a try. Power and Majesty is book one of the Creature Court trilogy, a fantasy series set (going off the map at the front) in an alternate Earth, more specifically in an alternate Italy.
Teenagers Velody, Delphine and Rhian have come to the city of Aufleur (an alternate Rome?) to become an apprentice dressmaker, ribboner and florister respectively. One night Velody sees a young man (Garnet) fall from the sky and land in the street outside. He displays magical abilities and sees in her the ability to use the same magic. Freaking out, Velody agrees to give up her powers and give them to Garnet, then promptly loses her memory of the encounter.
12 years or so later, Garnet dies and Velody suddenly gets her power back. She enters the world of the Creature Court, where powered individuals fight attacks from the sky at night to keep the city safe (the normal citizenry are completely oblivious to both the danger and the Creature Court and indeed seem to spend their days celebrating an almost never ending series of festivals). The Court is a decadent place and the rest of the book describes Velody’s trials and tribulations as she attempts to navigate its somewhat murky waters.
The magic system is very interesting – practitioners are aligned to a particular animal and can split themselves into multiple instances of that animal (although I have to think that splitting your consciousness multiple ways to control your various animal vessels has got to at least involve a headache). The Creature Court is divided into a hierarchy depending on levels of power, with more powerful members having stronger abilities. I liked the way the magic was described and the complex web of interrelationships that make up the Court.
Sometimes the first book in a trilogy works well as a stand alone novel as well. This is not one of those books. It felt very much like the first in a series, and established the major characters without fully introducing the main antagonist (assuming you consider the danger from the sky as the main antagonist). If you considered this as a stand alone book, it would feel a little underdone. As a start of a trilogy it did a good job of whetting my appetite for the rest of the series.
I enjoyed the writing and the characters seemed well realised to me. The dialogue was great and the main characters seemed quite three dimensional. The minor characters were also excellent, with my personal favourite being the Sentinel Macready. The pacing was just about spot on and there was a good balance of violence, vicious politics and romantic elements (although I must say that the cover makes the book look like it is going to be mainly a romance and I wouldn’t describe it that way at all).
As someone with very little interest in the craft/fashion world there were aspects of Velody, Delphine and Rhian’s professional day jobs that were difficult to generate enthusiasm for. I suspect someone with a stronger interest would have got more out of those sections of the book.
The only bit of the story that bothered me a little was that there was a touch of the never-done-martial-arts-before-go-into-the-woods-for-a-week-and-become-a-kung-fu-master-accompanied-by-a-suitable-video-montage in how quickly Velody came into mastery of her powers. Given the painstaking time it took each of the three women to master the skills necessary for them to become successful in their chosen daytime professions, I thought there might be a little more of that ethos in mastering the magic as well. But that is a minor quibble, and at least it did serve to move the story along at a good pace.
(As an aside, I got this novel on the Kindle and there was some weirdness in how it rendered the text. The font size kept jumping around and for most of the book even the smallest font setting on the Kindle had very big text on the screen. But every now and then it would revert to normal for a few pages. I’ve read quite a few books on the Kindle, and this was the first time I’ve seen behaviour like this. Having said that, my Kindle is a couple of generations out of date – perhaps that had something to do with it).
Overall I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. Excellent fantasy generally, and if you particularly like dress making, ribboning and floristry then you’ll like it all the more!
I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.
This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.