If you’ve ever wondered what Sydney would be like with paranormal beings lurking about, Foz Meadows’s debut YA novel pits vampires and psychics and a swan-obsessed cat in a medieval dungeon under Hyde Park.
BOOK GIVEAWAY: Read on for a chance to win a signed copy of Solace & Grief. Ends Wednesday, March 24 AEST.
In all my years at Sydney Uni, I’ve always wondered about this door. It’s hidden in a little garden between the Main Quad and the Pharmacy building. Every time I walked past it I wondered. So imagine my delight when I realised that Foz Meadows opens that door for me in Solace & Grief … and leads me to a world of magic, vampires and prophecies.
Solace Morgan walks out of her foster home the day she turns 17, convinced she’s a vampire and that she no longer belongs to her old life. She ends up at the Downstairs Club and meets a bunch of squatters, gets drunk, and before she knows it she’s living with her new set of best friends.
The beginning of the novel is a little drawn out and seems to go nowhere for a while. I mean, interesting stuff happens to Solace, but I just didn’t feel like I cared too much until it turns out that Solace’s friends have their own peculiarities. Like Electra, who manages to keep the pantry stocked even though no one ever goes out for groceries. Or Manx, who can turn into a big house cat that is ‘very intimidating, if you’re drunk.’ Or Glide, who … dreams.
When Solace and her friends answer a survey about people with special abilities, they discover that they’re part of the Rare—gifted beings whose talents have been a mystery and whose ‘presence en masse … could create a magic door between two distant locations.’
Meanwhile, Solace keeps having strange dreams that may or may not be real, including about a man named Sharpsoft who claims a connection with her family. And even as Solace tries to discover more about her ancestry, she and friends are drawn more deeply into the alternate world they’ve discovered, which includes a hidden science lab at Town Hall, an underground dungeon at Hyde Park, and more than one capricious door.
Myths and characters
Meadows explains the mythology of Solace’s world and introduces elements of her past through various means, including a ‘tripwalk’—a kind of prophetic hallucination for people with gifts—and a journal written by Solace’s mother. But there was so much information crammed into the story, and so many other characters, that I was befuddled by it all. If you like mythologies and mysterious pasts, though, there’s plenty of it in this book.
I was more interested in the relationships between Solace and her friends, some of whom are paired up, and one of whom becomes a romantic interest. As a vampire, Solace’s gift was probably the least interesting for me (given that I’m a bit over paranormal romance), so maybe I was also slightly frustrated at not knowing as much about the other characters. There just aren’t enough pages for Evan*, Jess, Manx, Electra, Harper, Paige, Laine and Glide. Meadows gives allows them all to wield power over the course of the story, but I was left wanting more! (Although now that I think about it, this is a very effective ploy to entice me to read the next book.)
I had a few other nitpicks. For example, I felt that Solace seemed much older than 17 and that there was a disconnect between her past in chapter 1 and how well she was able to adapt to her new home and friends. I also couldn’t understand why everyone kept walking. Walking from Paddo to the CBD! There are buses, people! (Although maybe this is because I’m lazy and I wear impractical shoes.)
* My favourite character. Dear Foz, please don’t let him die. Thank you.
Prophecies and fetishes
The second half of Solace & Grief introduces riddles and hints at a prophecy that hints at a secret romance. I’m a sucker for riddles and prophecies and romance. I love, love, love them! And this is where the book turns around for me, from being so-so to a must-read-the-sequel-now. Meadows also hints at undiscovered powers, not just for Solace, but for the others. I’m a sucker for mysterious powers.
Wait. Actually, I think it was the cranky cat with a swan fetish that really sold the book for me.
Yay or nay?
This book is a good debut novel and I’d recommend it solely on the fact that it’s set in Sydney—except that there’s enough meat in the story to make it interesting beyond where it’s set. Solace and her friends’ gifts are revealed slowly but deliciously, and the end of the book is a real page-turner.
Still, there’s something seductive about an alternative world featuring landmarks and streets that I know and see everyday. It changes the experience for me a reader. Ever since I read Solace & Grief, I look at Town Hall differently, and as I pass the same doors mentioned in the story, my hands are itching to reach out and open them. Yes, I’m convinced there’s a dungeon underneath Hyde Park.
SOLACE & GRIEF GIVEAWAY
For a chance to win a SIGNED copy of Solace & Grief, in 25 words or less tell us what mysterious door you’d like to open and where it would lead.
Some rules: You must post your answer as a comment to this post. Multiple entries are fine. By entering, you give us permission to quote your entry in future blog posts and articles. Overseas readers are welcome to join in. The giveaway ends midnight on Wednesday, March 24 AEDT. Wandergurl, Decadence and I will pick our favourite answer. The winner must provide a delivery address within 1 week after we announce the result on the blog.
Where you can buy this book
AUSTRALIA: Abbeys | Bookglobe | Booktopia | Borders | Dymocks | Fishpond | Galaxy | Gleebooks | Kinokuniya | Nile | QBD | Readings | More
EBOOKS: Not available
WORLDWIDE: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository