Saturnalia in Aufleur is a time of topsy-turvy revels, of the world turned upside down and transformed before your eyes. The city’s theatres produce an annual display of reversals, surprises and transformations.
In this city, flappers can transform into wolves. Even the rats are not what they seem.
Evie Inglirra is on a mission to infiltrate the theatrical world of Aufleur and discover what lies beneath their glamorous cabaret costumes and backstage scandals. Has she bitten off more than she can chew?
It had an very interesting premise and was a perfect length as an audiobook for the time when I was looking for my next listen. I was not at all disappointed and I'm intrigued to try the next one. It has me a little weary though that this was 0.5 in the series and the next one seems to be Seth in a different time soon. But hopefully it's nothing to worry about.
I've been following Tansy Rayner Roberts on Twitter for a while now, and when she posted last year that she was launching a Kickstarter to republish her Creature Court trilogy, "a dark fantasy series of books about a city of flappers, cabaret and ancient festivals", I thought that sounded very much like something I'd enjoy and signed up to back it.
Cabaret of Monsters is a prequel novella to the main trilogy. It's set in the city of Aufleur, a heady mix of ancient Rome, fin-de-siècle Paris and the Roaring Twenties, among the artists of a commedia-del-arte style theatre and the mysterious shapeshifters who spend their nights protecting the city from attack by the sky. It's an absolute delight, packing in plot twist after plot twist as well as love, friendship and a kind of default queerness that made my heart sing. I loved it and am really looking forward to reading the trilogy as well.
Caberet of Monsters presents a marvelous twist of Urban Fantasy. Though I was originally drawn by the Roman elements, the vibe of Parisian theatre and roaring 1920's as a backdrop to urban fantasy was refreshingly original.
What to Expect
A novella set in the same world as the Creature Court trilogy, published a few years ago by Roberts. The story alternates between two viewpoints, those of Livilla and Evie, both outsiders to the theatre scene and making their way in.
Right from the start we are made aware of the shapeshifters and their war, although the details of which remain mysterious throughout the story, and mostly in the background. It is a tale more of intrigue than action, powered by the colourful characters Roberts bring to life.
What I liked
The world building is done expertly, as an ever-present vibe rather than heavy-handed info dumps. Characters are colourful and relationships are LGBTQ-friendly (as one would expect from theatre people) and the use of language to set the tone and is both subtle and sublime.
I loved the use of Roman holidays and in naming the places (giving a sort of alternate-history vibe, again without being obvious). Although being familiar with some of the concepts might deepen appreciation (a 'market-nine' is the 8-day Roman "week"), it is not required for enjoyment of the world and story.
What to be aware of
The novella has a bit of a confusing start (perhaps because most of the world building has been done already), and viewpoints are first-person for Livilla and third-person for Evie.
Highly recommended to Urban Fantasy lovers, particularly those who'd appreciate an historical bent. The setting is refreshingly original, and the story intriguing. I'm adding the previous Creature Court trilogy to the top of my TBR. -- Assaph Mehr, author of Murder In Absentia: A story of Togas, Daggers, and Magic - for lovers of Ancient Rome, Murder Mysteries, and Urban Fantasy.
An early review based on my Kickstarter copy of the novella - this will be available for general purchase later in the year!
It's no secret that I am a fan of Tansy Rayner Roberts. I have published her work many times, I read everything she releases, and consider her a close friend. I think she is an innovative, clever, brilliant writer, and she has proven it across multiple genres and in many forms, from traditional novel publications to serialised books, self-published short fiction and audio narration. And with Cabaret of Monsters, Tansy once again proves all my points about how awesome she is.
This story is a prequel to Tansy's multi-award winning trilogy The Creature Court, first published by Harper Voyager several years ago. The setting for these books stems from a mashup of several seemingly disparate interests of the author, including Ancient Rome and flappers, but boy does it work! I adored the three books of this series, unabashedly, and I can now add this story to the pile of love. And the best bit? You don't have to have read the trilogy to hook straight into Cabaret of Monsters - it completely stands along, and being set beforehand, will only add to the crunchy nature of the worldbuilding and character development in the trilogy when you get to it. As a long time reader, though, I love that while we follow a character new to the series in this novella, we get plenty of interaction with characters we DO already know from the trilogy, so fans are rewarded as well, and it really does make you want to dive straight back into a reread of the original books.
I haven't really said anything about the story itself, and I won't, because really, if flappers mixed with Ancient Rome, superpowered shape shifters, and the theatre and the people who live in it don't hook you in, well, I'm not sure I can say more to engage you. But I loved the twists and turns of this novella, and it kept me guessing every step of the way. Highly recommended!
Sneaky, awesome, queer, and gorgeous. Some fantastic twists (WOW I DID NOT SEE THAT BIG ONE COMING) and plenty of subtle Easter eggs for those who've already read the main trilogy. By far one of the best prequel-written-after-the-main-series I've ever read, and a total delight. Very, very happy to return to the Creature Court world, and this absolutely lived up to the impossible standards set by the rest of the series. It's officially 3:30 in the morning as I type this and I'm not even a little bit sorry!
This is a spin-off of the author's "Creature Court" novels, but you don't have to have read them to enjoy this (I hadn't). Roberts has constructed a sort of alternate world that mashes up everything from Ancient Rome to Moulin Rouge to 1920s America into one colorful, decadent stew. There magic, monsters, secret conspiracies, and a plucky girl reporter who has to make sense of it all. Great, memorable characters and some wicked plot twists you won't see coming. A real page-turner. (Review based on an advance copy I received as part of a Kickstarter promotion)
I haven't read the Creature Court books, so I was even more curious about this one. I wasn't disappointed: it was interesting at first to catch glimpses of the world, then in the middle the pace was unhurried and I was slightly disappointed that, though I liked them okay, I wasn't more interested in Livilla and Evie, and then the climax/ending was great and I liked both of them a lot better, especially Evie. I really look forward to the novel series.
The description of Cabaret of Monsters had me both intrigued and confused, because Roman festivals, flappers, shape shifting, and commedia dell'arte-style theater are a collection of elements that do not intuitively fit together. I am here to assure you, however, that Tansy manages to blend them together in a lush, dark, spectacular mystery that drew me in and kept me guessing (seriously, I did not see some of those plot twists coming).
I want to particularly comment on how well Tansy manages to capture the essence of "theater people"; my performance experience was in the dance world rather than something like this but I can still recognize familiar elements. Group dynamics are in many ways Tansy's forte - see also the Belladona University gang.
The other thing that Cabaret of Monsters does spectacularly well is to whet my appetite for the Creature Court novels, of which it is a prequel. The novella only dances around the edges of Aufler's dark underbelly, but it's enough to make me want more. Immediately. I have so many questions.
Rome, theatre, and the Roaring 20s might not make sense put together into one novella, but in Cabaret of Monsters it does.
This novella is set in the same world as the Creature Court trilogy and focuses on two characters - Evie and Livellia. One is hunting...something and gains entrance to the theatre, the other was once part of it and has returned.
I really enjoyed the world revealed in this novella. It's creative, and the theatre part is as over the top as one might imagine it should be. There's no wholesale tell all dumping of information about the world; instead it's revealed through glimpses of it. I often find this a more organic way to learn about a book world.
The story moves quickly and has a sense of mystery and intrigue about it.
It's a nice introduction to the world though the trilogy's focus is only glanced at in this book.
I helped kickstart this but at the time I could only afford the e-book and because I am a bear of very little brain I kept forgetting to download it (and when I remembered, the tablet battery was flat). So I was glad to be able to snaffle a print copy off Tansy at Continuum this year.
It's GREAT and it's QUEER and there's NON-BINARY REP and it's about a WRITER (well, she's one of the main POV characters) and there's THEATRICAL SHENANIGANS and I yummed it down on my commute today and now I want to reread the main trilogy plus like a whole bunch more of these novellas because it's such a strikingly well-built universe and the characters feel so real and just *grabby hands*.
Cabaret of Monsters is a prequel novella to the Creature Court dark fantasy trilogy. Evie Inglirra, a newspaper reporter, has travelled to Aufleur to uncover secrets. But there is more here than she realized. Evie thought she wanted to learn the truth, but now she just wants to get out of Aufleur alive.
I was a bit confused by the book, but this was my first book from this author and it may be that I needed to read another series first? There are many characters in this prequel and it’s a job to get to know them. But having gotten my feet wet now, I have hopes for diving into the next one.
A great introduction to a unique world. This prequel is initially a little confusing as it dives right in yet also skates around the edges of the deeper world explored in the trilogy proper. But it's no less enjoyable for that.
The story glides along on entirely unexpected yet seemingly seamless tangents and the language is hugely engaging. I'm looking forward to getting to know this world and its inhabitants better.
Another novella by Tansy that I love. This is not unexpected, I am an unashamed fan of her work. I love the mix of frocks, flappers, theatre, dramatics and frivolity in this novella. I loved that I read it listening to Tansy on her 'Sheep Might Fly' podcast, for me that was just perfect. Loved this prequel, loved that it stands alone and does make me want to reread the trilogy it precedes.