Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by Jo Anderton


The midi-chlorian issue, that point when the laws of physics bump up uncomfortably with the impossibility of magic and the author is tempted to explain too much about how it's all supposed to work, happens in every fantasy. The fact that I'm still not sure where to put Suited on the spectrum between pure sci-fi and total fantasy is a sign of how deftly Jo Anderton has handled this. The magic system in the Veiled Worlds is complex, and part of the story's intrigue is watching the main character, Tanyana, peel back the layers to get a better understanding of how her world really works. However the author never crosses the line into over-explanation, instead tantalisingly drip-feeding it to readers.

Tanyana's suit is playing up. It seems to be almost organic, with a mind of its own. When she needs its protection it grows over her like a coating of silver armour, but sometimes she can't just will it back into place when she needs to be herself again. It seems to be taking her over, but why?

Meanwhile the debris collecting team is getting split up in a way that seems calculated to cause maximum disruption. After Tanyana's fall from power they had become like a second family to her. But they are vulnerable, each in different ways but particularly Lad with his mixture of secret uncanny abilities and childlike naivety. The veche who run Movoc-under-Keeper demand that the collectors meet their weekly targets or else, but there is less and less of the substance to be found. The team are keen to avoid the veche's attention and the trouble it can involve. The fabric of the world appears to be unravelling and leaking away, leading to dangerous collapses and instabilities. Malevolent puppet men have something to do with it, and they always seem to be in the background, watching Tanyana deal with each crisis like she's some kind of experiment.

There's a new member of their collecting team, Aleksey, who seems unusually knowledgeable about a lot of things. Tanyana has become involved with an underground group of the "unbound", people who can see debris who don't want to be condemned to the role the upper echelons of society want to give them. So she has secrets to keep, her own as well as other people's, and when things get dangerous for Tanyana and those she cares about she has to decide who she can trust with that information. But she's discovering that judgement of character is one thing she's much worse at than she thought she was.

Suited is set in a complex world so the story needs quite a lot of recapping, but I didn't feel lost at any point. However it is suitably twisty: just as soon as I'd recovered from one revelation there'd be another shock lurking over the next page. So it's an intellectually satisfying novel because it's never obvious who Tanyana should rely on or what's going to happen next. At the same time the characters grew on me. There's a powerful event near the end that made me want to cry, and that's a sign of how believable the characters are. The main ones are all damaged in some way, but I liked the way none of them are cast in the role of pure victim. They're all struggling against the end of the world and they don't see themselves as disabled, they see themselves as defenders, and they often surprise themselves and those around them with their capabilities. For me that's the what makes this story seem real, endearing and uplifting. It's a fantasy that talks the language of science, with programmers and awful experiments and portals that seem to be full of something like antimatter, but the reason I really like this series is that it's rooted in the psychological truth of how people with physical and mental difficulties experience life.

6th August 2012

Book Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Books

    Female Protagonist  

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The Dragon Keeper cover    

The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
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5 star rating

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