I’m not a reviewer by any stretch but I thought I would put a few lines down about each of the books available as prizes in my new blog comp, and first up is Power and Majesty, by Tansy Rayner Roberts.
Power and Majesty is the first in a trilogy of fantasy novels and revolves around the nightly battles to save the city of Aufleur from oblivion from a menacing sky. The warriors defending the city are a bunch called the Creature Court, who have various levels of power that let them shape shift and battle the malevolence from above. In the novel they are without a leader, the titular Power and Majesty. Enter Velody, a dressmaker, late to her powers…
I’m not going to try and give an all encompassing review of the book. I really just want to talk about why I really enjoyed it, despite having foresworn the fantasy series thing for a quite a few years now. (Well, that’s a white lie. Six months ago someone got me some George R.R. Martin to read, but other than that…)
I think two things make this a ripping read:
Firstly, is Roberts’ treatment of the genre she is working in. Her treatment of the tropes of fantasy are remarkably fresh and accessible. The shape-shifters of the Creature Court don’t feel like any shape-shifting creatures I’ve read before, and you don’t have to be a werewolf / demon fan to enjoy the idea. The Creature Court – the heroic band of warriors – is full of flawed characters any of whom would passably play the villain in another book. They don’t arrive in shining armour to the sound of trumpets. In fact, half the time you’re not even sure they’ll go to war at all.
Second great thing about this book is the discourse on gender issues that is interwoven through the text, or more correctly how it is interwoven. Too often, it seems like such discussions seem to come at the expense of the plot. Good writers can put forward views inside good stories, bad writers wrap ideology in thin plots that make me wonder why the writer didn’t just write a non-fiction text to begin with.
Roberts is a good writer. Without spoiling too much of the story, her treatment of Velody is nuanced in that she is very deliberately valued because of her femininity, not despite it. She is not a strong female because she has culturally-defined “masculine” qualities, in fact Roberts seems to construct Velody as almost the archetypal “damsel in distress”, before systematically turning the idea on its head, showing the value in every aspect of Velody’s nature. I like this because, not only does the plot not suffer for this work, it benefits greatly in my opinion. Velody is (to this admittedly not well-read fantasy reader) the most original element of the novel. Following her vocation – dressmaking – is just as important to her as going chimaera.
What is “going chimaera” I hear you ask? Sorry, you’ll have to read the book to find out.
So there you go – freshness and originality – the two things that always excite me when I read.
Go out and buy it… or better yet, write a story for my blog comp and win a signed copy!
Find out more about Tansy here.