Sunday, May 6, 2018

Creatures Of Will And Temper by Molly Tanzer

Although they are sisters, Evadne and Dorina Gray couldn't be more dissimilar.  Dorina is the perfect Victorian lady; petite, fashionable, beautiful in all the accepted ways except for her dalliances with other women.  Evadne is a very different matter.  She is short, stocky and could care less for fashion and beauty.  Her passion is fencing and she devotes her time and energy to make herself a master at it.

When Dorina wants to visit their uncle in London and write a biography of his work as a painter, it isn't something she would normally be allowed to do.  Young ladies who haven't even come out don't go gallivanting off by themselves.  However, their parents decide it is permissible as long as Evadne goes along as her chaperone.

Their differences are magnified in London.  Evadne cares nothing about the museums and the art circles that have Dorina in ecstasy.  However, Evadne finds a fencing academy which has the promise of taking her skills to a new level.  Each of the girls also finds a mentor.  Dorina is entranced with Lady Henrietta 'Henry' Wooten, a rich, fashionable lady who cares nothing for what society thinks.  Evadne finds her teacher, George Cantrell, a firm yet gentle instructor who soon has her fencing moved up several levels in skill.  Although the sisters are at odds with each other, each has found a new joy in living.

Yet all is not well.  Evadne discovers that George has dedicated his life to a mission, one that he wants her to join.  He is sure that demons are around and that they take up residence in those who are willing to barter their souls in exchange for gifts like beauty, riches or some other skill.  He is determined to find and kill all of them and he wants Evadne to join his group of demon-hunters.  Evadne is especially sensitive to traces of demons.  Her greatest fear is that Henry is one of those who have made a bargain with a demon and that Dorina will do the same under her guidance.  Will Evadne commit to eradicating demons no matter the cost, even if it is her sister's life?

Molly Tanzer has written a fascinating look at a Victorian England that most never consider.  Her depiction of the slow seduction of Dorina by the demons and of Evadne by her faith in her fencing skills is masterful.  The pace is brisk enough to be a page turner while the descriptions of the people and the surroundings recreate England in another time period.  Her work has been nominated for several literary prizes and she moves between genres effortlessly.  This book is recommended for readers of fantasy.

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