Mar 18

Book Review: Creatures of Will and Temper

Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer

I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook. It was like a period romance, except with fencing, diabolists, and lesbians. How startlingly creative to combine the Victorian love of the occult with the late romanticists!

The main characters are Doreena and Yvadne (guessing on the spelling) who are two unmarried sisters who love each other and yet are so diametrically contrary in character that they grate on one another’s nerves. Doreena is passionate and sensual while Yvadne is antisocial and confrontational. Since I’m an introvert who likes martial arts, I found Yvadne a relatable character, but she doesn’t make it easy. She’s a bit of a pill. And Doreena should be more likeable, since I’m also someone passionate about the arts and new experiences, but she’s kind of a cad and doesn’t always respect others’ feelings. They’re not easy women to like, but Tanzer spends so much time with them that by the end of the book I did want them to succeed and be happy.

Yvadne is passionate about fencing, and Doreena is passionate about art and sensual experiences. Each find their own circle of acquaintances and their own sense of belonging within them. If this were a historical fiction, it might have stopped at that, because that’s really enough of a human experience that we could all get something out of it, but this is a fantasy novel, so there’s also demons.

I really loved the way that Tanzer does demons in this book. They’re nuanced. There are as many different kinds of demons as there are different kinds of people, and while some of the demons want their followers to murder people, others just want a beneficial symbiotic relationship. Whether the diabolists are pure evil or just aesthetes depended on ones viewpoint. Kind of like drug users in that way; whether they’re all worthless junkies or just people who want to experience the richness of life more fully depends on where you are on the spectrum and whom you’ve come in contact with.

What I liked best about this book is the way it really made me feel creepy and gothic and Victorian without using ghosts or vampires. It was delightfully steampunk without using a single gear or clock or mechanical anything. It was Lovecraftian without using Cthulu or madness. It made candy seem as alluring and dangerous as opium. Listening to this book put me in a world that felt simultaneously familiar and exotic.

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