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Book reviews: Smoke, Hex, Vigil

Supernatural fiction with Colin Steele
Nanjing Night Net

SMOKE. By Dan Vyleta. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. $29.99.

Smoke has echoes of Charles Dickens, Philip Pullman and J. K. Rowling in its settings and characterisation. In an alternate Victorian England, people’s “sins” are measured by the amount of smoke that physically issues from their bodies. The rural rich pay to become “pure” and largely smoke-free, whereas the poor and uneducated live in a profusion of smoke in the cities. Boarding school friends Thomas and Charlie combine with young aristocratic Livia to uncover the truth behind their world’s dark smoking mirrors. Smoke is an intriguing and complex novel, only marred by too many subplots.

HEX. By Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Hodder and Stoughton. $32.99.

Bestselling Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt originally set Hex in his native Netherlands. For the English translation, however, the location is changed to the Hudson Valley town of Black Spring. Hex begins with the tragic story of Katherine van Wyler, sentenced to death for witchcraft in 1664. Her ghostly presence has quarantined the small town’s residents ever since from the outside world. But when teenagers post videos of Katherine on the internet, ancient supernatural evil is unleashed, as well as the town’s internal conflict. Hex is an unrelenting, yet compelling, supernatural horror story.

VIGIL. By Angela Slatter. Jo Fletcher. $32.99.

Australian author Angela Slatter has won numerous Australian and international awards for her short stories. Vigil, her debut novel, the first of the Verity Fassbinder trilogy, is located in an alternate Brisbane. Verity is half human and half Weyrd. Her dead father was a “kinderfresser”, a man who killed children for bizarre reasons. Private investigator Verity atones for her father’s crimes by maintaining the balance between humanity and the Weyrd. But when more children go missing, the acerbic Verity has to tackle many issues, including dark angels, a golem and an evil Weyrd. Vigil is a rich paranormal dark fantasy.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


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