Book Review: Cabaret of Monsters, by Tansy Rayner Roberts

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.

Summary

Highly recommended Cabaret of Monsters 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.

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