Hmmm… location photos probably won’t come for a while because that would require an actual road trip and I have to, you know, work and stuff.
My reviewHmmm… location photos probably won’t come for a while because that would require an actual road trip and I have to, you know, work and stuff.
My review is split in to five sections: Writing, Plot, Worldbuilding, Characters, and X-Factor. Each section comprises of either half or one star, except X-Factor which can utilise two whole stars.
Writing 0 I hate to do this. I really do. Where has Gordon’s decent prose gone? I didn’t have a problem with the actual technique in Thyla: the second person narration was interesting and fairly innovative, but the info-dumping through eavesdropping was way too convenient. The writing was smooth and well-structured, for the most part, until Tessa figured out her secret.
I didn’t love Thyla, but Vulpi was a chore to read and I was thoroughly tempted not to finish. The biggest thing that kept me going was the fact that I didn’t want to be the first person to give Vulpi one star on Goodreads. Because I mean, who am I? Some uppity self-published nobody – Gordon’s been traditionally published. She’s actually had editors and presumably the experience to back up her publishing deal and grants.
Which is why the following writing really jars me so much: (The spoiling parts are hidden by spoilers. If you don’t mind spoilers, then by all means feel free to read them. Also please note – if you find absolutely nothing wrong with the following excerpts, then you will probably enjoy the book. Also note I only started taking notes after page 100.)
There was a Diemen in front of me. ‘Hello, sleepyhead,’ the Diemen hissed. ‘Piss off,’ I said and clawed him in the neck. I never was a morning person. As the Diemen slumped to the deck I looked around me. I coughed as smoke flowed into my throat and nose. ‘Delphi!’ I yelled. I couldn’t see anything through the dust and grit. ‘Tessa!’ ‘Cat!’ Help!’ It was Delphi. She was about ten metres away, towards the front of the boat. It wasn’t far but I could hear fighting all around me, even if I couldn’t see it. I could run straight into a Deimen. I could be killed. But Delphi was in danger. I steeled myself. I breathed out steadily. And then I bolted.
‘Right!’ Archie pulled up suddenly. I kept running. ‘Oof!’ Archie complained, jerking forwards. ‘Sorry!’ I cried. ‘You just-’ ‘Stopped awfully suddenly. Yes, I know.’ ‘Why?’ I asked, rubbing the elbow that had collided with Archie’s ribs.
‘Are you all right, Cat?’ Archie said. ‘I can feel you’re afraid.’ I nodded. ‘I am, a bit,’ I said. He reached out and took my hand again. It felt like electricity was pulsing through it. ‘You’re afraid of what we are about to do,’ he said, nodding. I nodded back, even though it wasn’t entirely true. I was a bit apprehensive about what would happen next – whether we’d have to fight Diemens or even Vulpis, whether we’d find Isaac and Tessa alive – but what I was really afraid of was how my heart raced when I look at his face and how my body shivered when he touched me. ‘Cat, I believe you can do this,’ Archie said. ‘Take a leap. I think you’ll find you’ll fly.’ Archie squeezed my hand. ‘Of course, I could be completely wrong. You might fail spectacularly. But that’s all part of the adventure, isn’t it?’ And with that thought to comfort me, Archie dragged me out of the shadows, and into the light.
(view spoiler)[Archie pulled his hand away from Tessa and held it out to me. He hoisted me up. Tessa moved slowly forward, pointing the knife at him… ‘Oh, I think you’ll find we did that all by ourselves,’ Tessa said, pressing the knife against his throat. ‘Tessa, don’t!’ I cried. We can trust him. Believe me.’ Tessa looked at me through narrowed eyes. ‘You trust him?’ ‘Yes,’ I insisted. Tessa nodded curtly and lowered the knife. ‘The other Diemens are still upstairs,’ she said tensely. (hide spoiler)]
‘True love, I suppose, looks past the colour of one’s fur,’ Archie replied. ‘Cat?’ I turned around. Isaac was standing behind us.
‘And I haven’t!’ Charlotte cried. ‘I haven’t told a soul. I’ve held up my side of the bargain. Now you need to tell me what’s going on. And don’t bullshit me!’ Charlotte cried. ‘What happened? What’s happening now? I deserve to know.’
(view spoiler)[‘Erin! Ah, yes, I remember. You’re the friend of that young ginger girl, aren’t you? I remember her screaming your name as we cut her little white belly open!’ Erin roared and launched herself at Lord. ‘As you wish,’ he said unemotionally. He reached out and grabbed Erin by the throat. He raised her into the air as if she was as light as a kitten. Erin dropped her gun as she struggled and gagged. She tried to scream but Lord was holding her throat too tightly. ‘What’s wrong, little native? I thought this was what you wanted?’ Lord cocked his head to one side. ‘It’s been a long time,’ he said menacingly. ‘I’ve almost forgotten what black girl tastes like. Oooh, yes… I remember. I used to have quite an appetite for your kind, back in the day.’ He cocked his head to one side. ‘There is something rather familiar about those dark eyes of yours. So pretty… Tell me, do you have any sisters?’ Lord licked his lips. ‘If you’re as delicious as you look I could have a new favourite meal.’ (hide spoiler)]
(view spoiler)[Rhiannah raced over and pushed the catch on the handcuffs with the hand of her good arm, freeing me. ‘Don’t worry,’ she said. ‘I think it’s just a sprain. The crack was just me falling on some glass. I’ll be fine.’ ‘Are you sure?’ Rhiannah nodded. I looked from her to Charlotte to Hatch’s crumpled body, still leaking blood on Charlotte’s plush white carpet. ‘Are you okay?’ I asked Charlotte. (hide spoiler)]
Before we move on, I just want to add that there was one small section of descriptive writing of a particularly gruesome nature that I did thoroughly enjoy reading. (view spoiler)[It was when Cat and Archie discover the girls strung up and drained of blood in the Diemen’s lair. (hide spoiler)] It added a touch of the macabre and horror to the novel, which I appreciated. No shying away from stuff there. Awesome
Plot .5 First half 0 Second half 1
There was no plot in the first half of the book. The characters spent entirely too much time naval gazing. “Oh no, they’ve kidnapped Rhiannah! We’ve got to do something!” Cue no characters actually doing anything. Cue offpage action. Cue Cat being so fucking boring I wanted to tear my hair out. The introduction of Archie is when I actually started enjoying reading this. He doesn’t speak like an English person at all – LOL I should know, I dragged one here – but he’s funny and brave, if a little freakishly psychotic. (view spoiler)[Who the hell would leave dead bodies as signs pointing to the bad guys then introduce yourself to the people you’re supposedly hiding from anyway? Weird. (hide spoiler)]
Also? Picked the traitor from the first ‘hint’. I was surprised Cat didn’t. She reminded me too much of Tessa in her blind trusting nature. “Oh, maybe I have enemies, I’ll just blurt my secret to this girl because she’s different but she might be my enemy OH WELL!” Tessa asked the right questions, but didn’t put two and two together in her head. I know it was for the benefit of the reader to make the connections first, but with someone writing book 1 from second person point of view I would have thought there was more bravery and daring to be different in book 2 as well. Ah well, the tropes return.
Worldbuilding 1 I liked the addition of the Vulpis. It’s clever. It’s especially clever because I freaking LOVE foxes. Tasmania is the only place in the entire world bar Antarctica where you will not find foxes. That’s arguable I know, because in recent years people seem to think they’ve seen foxes jumping off shipping crates from Victoria and people claim to have found fox scats or DNA in the far south of the state… but I don’t think it’s true.
Anyway, I really liked how the shapeshifter myth was built. It’s not exactly original (view spoiler)[Doctor Who is not the only one to mix English royals and shapeshifters together (hide spoiler)], and it’s far from believable, but it’s acceptable, and that’s all I ask for. Also, the Diemens aren’t as scary as I wanted them to be. (view spoiler)[Why go to all the bother of taking away a shapeshifter’s powers just to turn them into Diemens? Especially when you don’t have to take away their powers as proven by Delphi, and especially when the Diemens are also perfectly happy to also turn non-shifters, as evidence by their mass kidnappings. (hide spoiler)]
Characters 0 I don’t like Cat. I don’t care about her. It was a huge risk taking the story from Tessa’s point of view to Cat’s point of view, and I don’t feel that it paid off. Cat is annoying and boring, part time damsel in distress and part time ass-kicker. Inconsistently. And the most annoying thing? That’s she’s a poseur who really had no reason to run away from home except that she didn’t want to be her mother’s daughter any more. That’d be cool, if say her mother was the mayor or the prime minister or a movie star. But Cat’s mum is a nobody police officer. Cat is an incredibly selfish character, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why two characters fall in love with her and a third makes sexual advances. I don’t find anything about her redeeming.
I also think she’s in love with Tessa. Tessa’s all she can think about. Tessa’s name revolves in her thoughts. You know how in Thyla Tessa’s mantra was woven throughout the novel? ‘I am Tessa, I am brave, I do not cry’? Well, Tessa’s name is woven through this narrative as well, except that it’s Cat thinking about Tessa and worrying about Tessa and obsessing about Tessa – and not in a ‘best friend’ kind of way. I mean something deeper than that. I also think that she’s in love with Tessa because she so firmly pushed Delphi away and tried to make it clear to the reading audience that she was straight. Well, I don’t buy it. Denial, much? Actions speak louder than words.
As for the wonderfully perfect Tessa: well, she was inconsistently written. She spoke quite strangely. I suspect it was an attempt to make her seem old-timey in comparison to Cat’s more modern headspace, but it just failed. It failed because she didn’t speak like that in Thyla.
Archie was a good addition, but not for the ‘romance’. He could answer a lot of questions, even if it did seem rather like an info dump most of the time.
and X-Factor .5 I didn’t find very much about this book redeeming. Archie gets half a star for humour and dedication to a dislikeable character.
Overall I didn’t like Vulpi. That upsets me. It was extraordinarily close to being 1 star, but I only rate books I don’t finish 1 star. I pushed through this book because of my loyalty to Tasmania and I was rewarded with Archie, which was pretty cool. And I genuinely believe that if you don’t see the problems with the excerpted material I posted above, then you’ll probably enjoy this novel, too, once you get past the extraordinarily non-eventful first half.
I wish Gordon all the best for book 3 and 4 (if there is one). I would really like to see one of the books from Charlotte Lord’s point of view, and I doubt very much I will pick up book 3/4 unless that comes to pass. I can’t say I trust Gordon yet – she sucker-punched me with Thyla and left me disappointed with Vulpi. It’s totally awesome to see Tasmania get its own paranormal history but I’m in no rush whatsoever to read the next book....more